The Colorado Avalanche made two decisions heading into Wednesday night’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
They inserted Nazem Kadri into the lineup for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery in the Western Conference Finals and they returned to goaltender Darcy Kuemper after he was taken out in game 3.
The moves paid off as Kuemper made 37 saves and started a game in overtime which Kadri finished for a 3-2 victory. That gave the Avalanche a 3-1 series lead against the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Colorado can wrap up its first championship since 2001 with a victory at the Ball Arena in Denver on Friday (8 p.m. ET, TSTIME).
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The Avalanche overcame two one-goal deficits with fortuitous rebounds, and Kadri’s goal wasn’t called right away after rounding Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy (34 saves).
“I thought he made the save for a second and then the next thing you know people were running towards me,” Kadri told ESPN.
Kuemper allowed a goal from Anthony Cirelli 36 seconds later, on a play on which he lost his mask, but finished the first period with 16 saves as the Lightning pressed.
Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado tied the game in the second period on the power play with a deflection of his skate for his first goal of the series and his 12th of the playoffs.
Defenseman Victor Hedman gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead in the second period before Andrew Cogliano tied the game in the third period when Niko Sturm’s shot bounced off him.
Kadri, usually a No. 2 center, took no faceoffs in the game.
He’s making the Stanley Cup final for the first time in his career after suspensions derailed three previous playoff attempts. But the pending unrestricted free agent avoided controversy by scoring a career-high 87 regular season points.
He received threats in the second round after a collision that injured St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, then scored a hat trick in the following game.
He had missed 18 days after Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers sent him crashing into the boards. Kadri had slowly worked his way up.
“I’ve been waiting for this all my life,” he told ESPN, “so I decided to stop waiting and try to join the party.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup Finals: Avalanche win in overtime, push Lightning to brink