DENVER – Andrei Burakovsky was like a kid on Christmas morning before game one of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday. He just ended up handing over the gift.
The Colorado Big Winning winger scored in overtime to lift the avalanche to edge past Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 to advance 1-0 in the series. Burakowski is one of only two Colorado players — along with Darren Helm — to have won a cup before, in 2018 with the Washington Capitals. This experience did not dampen his enthusiasm to return to compete for a championship, or to make an impact.
“I was kind of nervous and had a little trouble sleeping last night,” Burakowski said. “I woke up at six in the morning and couldn’t wait for the match. I feel like I’ve been there before and I know the situation and I know what’s at stake.”
Gabriel Landskog, who also scored in the Colorado win and was sharing the podium with Burakowski in the post-match press conference, couldn’t help but gently mock his teammate’s enthusiasm.
“Just wait until you have kids,” Landeskog said. “You’ll wake up at 6 every day.”
Burakowski knew in the first match that he would have an extended role in the cup final and played 12:34 in a special match full of teams. Nazim Qadri is still sidelined with a broken thumb injury in the Western Conference Finals, the same series in which Burakowski hit a shin kick and had to miss games 2 and 3.
Returned to game 4 and replaced my destiny in the second Colorado streak. Burakowski said earlier this week that he didn’t feel close to being healthy again until recently, but it was a good sign for the upcoming series. It helped Colorado get eight days off between completing her sweep of the Edmonton Oilers in the conference finals on June 6 and the puck’s dip in a tilt on Wednesday.
While the avalanche fared better than Tampa Bay early on, jumping to a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes, the two-time champions came back in the second half to tie the score. The regulation ended up holding sides 3-3, and it took Burakovsky less than 90 seconds in that extra frame to finish the job.
“I just saw [J.T.] Comfer said the ball crosses the neutral zone and wins fights. “I tried to get out as fast as I could and then obviously Val [Nichushkin] I got the disc back and it gave me a great play and it was up to me to pay it back.”
It was Burakowski’s only second post-season goal and his first since lighting the lamp in Game 4 of the Colorado’s first-round series against the Nashville Predators. Burakovsky’s lack of production resulted in him being scolded in two games in an avalanche second round match with the St. Louis Blues. He made it through that ordeal, just as he did with the latest injury, and coach Jared Bednar liked what he saw of Burakowski in Wednesday’s win.
“I thought he was really solid tonight,” Bednar said. He ran the puck really well. He didn’t have any turnover. He checked hard. He was skipping pucks. He skates really well. That’s what Berkey can do. You put him in somewhere, he can finish the game. , he can put the puck in the net. An all-out match for him tonight. I thought it was really strong.”
Burakowski may not score much, but historically his post-season contributions are timely. When Washington was in its cup career, Burakowski scored two goals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals—also against Tampa Bay—that propelled the Capitals’ card to the final.
Now he’s become the play-off champ once again and put Colorado within three victories of lifting the cup.
“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “Just ready to be here in the final and help the team win the match and it was definitely a great feeling.”