Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar’s confidence level in goaltender Darcy Kuemper is still high a day after the team lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and fell short during their first opportunity to clinch the title on home ice.
Kuemper stopped 26 shots from the double defending champions Friday night but was criticized for giving up a soft goal from defenceman Jan Rutta to open the scoring in the first period.
Bednar said after the game that Kuemper was “OK” and he’d “like to see him get the first one, obviously,” but gave his netminder a vote of confidence and shouldered the burden on the team as a whole while addressing reporters Saturday morning.
“He’s gotten us to this point,” Bednar said. “We’re in the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-2 series lead and we saw what he could do in the second game in Tampa. In order to beat a team like Tampa, as good as they are, we need strong performances from our whole team. One sneaks through him last night. We find a way to battle back and then we have a breakdown on the final goal.
“Margins for error are small at this time of the year, so everyone just has to get prepared to play their best game and give us everything they’ve got, but I would say our confidence level in Darcy is high.”
Kuemper posted a 16-save shutout in Game 2 as the Avalanche thumped the Lightning 7-0, but he was pulled in Game 3 after giving up five goals on 22 shots as Tampa Bay battled back to beat Colorado 6-2.
The 32-year-old Kuemper rebounded in Game 4 stopping 37 of 39 shots as the Avalanche were victorious 3-2 in overtime to close within one victory of clinching their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.
Colorado has another chance to finish the job while Tampa Bay looks to keep its hopes of a three-peat alive when Game 6 goes down Sunday starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.