The Avalanche now lead the series, 3-1, and can win their first title since 2001 on Friday night in Game 5 at home.
Kadri had missed four straight games, dating back to the last series, since suffering a broken thumb June 4. He wore a regular burgundy sweater and participated in drills with the Avalanche’s second power-play unit in Wednesday morning skate, and took a normal shift on the second line all game.
The goal was his seventh of the postseason and ended a night in which he had 25 shifts and 18:39 time on the ice.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar was hopeful on Wednesday morning about Kadri’s participation, but he did not reveal his official return at any point.
“He’s getting better every day,” Bednar said, when asked if Kadri would play. “If he can do all the functions that it takes to play a hockey game and is feeling comfortable with it, he’s a guy we’ll put back in. He’s been skating, legs feel good. It’s just about managing, I guess, the pain he’s dealing with.”
On the other end of the ice, Darcy Kuemper was back in the starter’s net for the Avalanche after being pulled from Game 3. Colorado’s incumbent netminder allowed five goals on 22 shots before getting the hook and being replaced by Pavel Francouz. But in Game 4, he was sharp, allowing just two goals on 40 Tampa Bay shots.
“Same with the rest of our team; I feel like he’s done a nice job with that,” Bednar said before the game. “He’s followed up good performances with better performances. He’s elevated his game when we’ve needed him to this year. He’s done it all season long.”
Kadri was boarded by Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and underwent surgery June 6 to repair the damage to his thumb. The veteran resumed skating on his own shortly after and began shooting again this week.
When Kadri traveled to Tampa with the team Sunday, Bednar said he was “not sure” if the 31-year-old would be ready for Game 3 or 4. The fact that Kadri came along suggested it was a possibility.
The Avalanche weren’t at complete health in Game 4, however, as they skated without Andre Burakovsky up front. The big winger suffered an apparent hand injury in Game 2 of the Final and did not make the trip to Tampa. Burakovsky had stepped in to fill Kadri’s void in Colorado’s top six and scored twice against the Lightning before the injury.