Want to beat Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, Avalanche? Join him. Start fast. Play desperate.

How bad do you want it, Nathan MacKinnon?

With the exception of Game 4, where things got cuckoo immediately and largely stayed there, the Stanley Cup Finals have been dictated by the team — Avalanche or Lightning — that controlled the first 20 minutes.

Game 1: The Gabe Landeskog and Val Nichushkin Show set the tone for the evening, firing the hosts to a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and a 4-3 Avs win in overtime.

Game 2: Andre Burakovsky’s goal capped a 3-0 first-period cushion en route to a 7-0 Colorado laugher.

How bad you want it, Landy?

Game 3: Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat broke a 1-1 deadlock with five minutes left in the first period, setting the stage for a four-goal Lightning onslaught in the second stanza and Darcy Kuemper getting pulled during a 6-2 Tampa rout.

Game 5: Lightning D-man Jan Rutta snapped a scoreless tie late in the first, firing a shot from the right dot that Kuemper let bounce off his glove and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Lightning lead. On a night when goals were precious, Tampa cashed in on a handful of Avs errors for a 3-2 victory.

How bad you want it, Darcy?

How bad do you want the Stanley Cup? The parade? All of it?

The Lightning are stubborn royalty, clinging to Lord Stanley the way a dangling cat clings to a tree branch.

“It’s experience,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper explained Saturday before his team boarded its flight back home for Sunday night’s Game 6, having trimmed the Avs’ series lead to 3-2.

“It’s like I always say — you can go to the driver’s school or whatever and you can write the test and get an ‘A.’ But it doesn’t mean when you jump behind the wheel you’re a (heck) of a driver. Experience matters. And I think for us, this experience for our team and our staff matters. And, hey, not guaranteeing we’re going to win (Sunday). But I think our mindset and being in these situations before makes our preparation better.”

Wanna beat ‘em?

Join ‘em.

Be cagey, Avs. Be clever.

Above all, be desperate.

It’s you against the swampy ice now, the way it became five against nine at times in Game 5. Especially after Cooper softened up the refs with an expert, almost surgical whine about Nazem Kadri’s overtime winner in Game 4 coming with too many men on the ice.

Sure enough, down 3-1, the Lightning got away with rough play Friday night at Ball Arena. Tampa grabbed, poked, prodded and pinched wherever and whenever they could with few consequences, a cornered beast with nothing to lose.

What Colorado managed in attempts of quantity (37 shots), it lacked in quality — which made those short-range, gilt-edge misses by the likes of MacKinnon and Cale Makar all the more painful, in retrospect.

“You have to be desperate every single game, and I think that’s something that we’ve talked about,” Avs defenseman Josh Manson noted Saturday. “We played St. Louis and they had that game where they kind of came back on us (at home). We felt that we needed to get desperate, and we learned from that a little bit.”

The Avs have been road warriors this postseason, winners of eight of their first nine away tests. They’ve closed out all three series to date on unfriendly ice. Nashville. St. Louis. Edmonton.

“I mean, it’s playoffs, it’s the Stanley Cup Finals,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said Saturday. “I think your teams always play with a certain level of desperation. Certainly, Tampa brought it (Friday). We’ve seen it building with both teams as the series goes on and there’s still lots of hockey to be played. So I expect our guys to again ramp up that level, as much as they possibly can.”

How bad you want it, Coach?

Because at the end of a series, the longer this goes, the more important the small things get. Especially between the pipes.

Kuemper, bless him, still somehow manages to beat himself, mentally or mechanically, at least once per game. Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy rarely does. Win or lose, the Big Cat requires dogged work, a power play or a wacky bounce to solve.

Freebies are few and far between. Cat makes you earn it. It’s baked into the Lightning’s culture, like brass knuckles in a coffee cake.

“It’s the injuries and the blocked shots and the gamesmanship and all those things that kind of just needle you to go away,” Cooper continued. “Just little (thoughts), like, ‘It’s okay if you back down now. You’ve (already) won, you’ve done it.’ And that’s why I think teams don’t keep repeating (titles). Because it’s easy to walk away.

“These guys won’t do it. And it’s something to marvel.”

You put a wounded animal out of its misery quickly. Because if this series has taught us anything, it’s that if you don’t get in that first blow, there’s a good chance said animal, frothing and frantic, lands the last.

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