Jared Bednar has another decision to make in goal, but this time it doesn’t have anything to do with an injury.
Darcy Kuemper, Colorado’s starting goaltender when healthy, needed to be replaced in the first round and Western Conference Final due to an unspecified upper-body injury. In Monday’s 6-2 loss in Game 3 at Tampa Bay, a healthy Kuemper was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 21 shots against. The issue for Colorado coach Jared Bednar was the ease with which Tampa Bay got a few of its goals.
“We had a couple of bad reads, a couple of turnovers,” Bednar said. “I just felt like the goals that we gave up, we just honestly didn't make them earn them.”
Teammates also came to Kuemper’s defense after Game 3. He was coming off a shutout in Game 2 when he made 16 saves, to help Colorado protect home-ice advantage.
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“Just shake it off,” Nathan MacKinnon said of his message to Kuemper. “He's been great all year. Yeah, I'm not going to get down on him at all. He had a shutout last game and played great, some tough bounces, I think, for him, too. … I can't remember all the goals, but I thought he looked good. It's just unfortunate.”
Mikko Rantanen offered a similar message after the Lightning scored their first two goals in a span shorter than two minutes. The third unanswered goal came in the first 90 seconds of the second period, and Kuemper was pulled after back-to-back Tampa Bay goals in the middle of the second period.
“I think it was on us for sure,” Rantanen said.
“You can't really ask for a goalie to make every save when you give (up) chances like that. It was on us, for sure, but we know Kuemps is a great goalie, and he's going to bounce back.”
Pavel Francouz, who was in goal for a majority of the Western Conference Final sweep of Edmonton, came in for the final 26-plus minutes and saved nine of the 10 shots he faced.
Bednar will have a couple of nights to sleep on the decision with Game 4 set for Wednesday in Tampa, though he said his evaluation of who’s in goal will be the same as it’s always been.
“He didn't have a good night, you know, neither did our team,” Bednar said. “We win as a team (and) lose as a team.”