For a while it looked like Game 5 of the Stanley Cup would follow an unfortunately familiar script for the Lightning.
Just as they did in Game 4 two nights previously, Tampa Bay couldn’t hold onto a pair of one-goal leads and conceded the equalizer on a fluky bounce early in the third.
Instead, the Bolts dug in.
It was Ondrej Palat who again played hero for the Lightning, scoring the game-winning goal at 13: 38 of the third to lift Tampa Bay to a 3-2 victory that keeps their season alive.
It was another clutch moment from Palat in the midst of a postseason run that has been full of them.
Jan Rutta scored the lone goal of the first period, but Valeri Nichushkin answered back five minutes into the second to level the score at one. After Nikita Kucherov scored his first goal of the series to put the Bolts in front again at 8: 07 of the second, Cale Makar answered with the equalizer on a lucky bounce early in the third period to set the stage for Palat’s late winner.
Andrei Vasilevskiy backstopped the victory with 35 saves on 37 Avalanche shots.
This was just the first step back for the Lightning, who still face a 3-2 series deficit and need to survive two more elimination games if they’re going to lift the Cup for the third-straight year. The teams will return to Tampa for Game 6 at AMALIE Arena on Sunday night.
TBL 1, COL 0
15: 21 Jan Rutta (1) – Corey Perry, Mikhail Sergachev
With the Lightning changing behind the play, Jan Rutta took a feed from Corey Perry at center ice and ventured alone into Colorado zone. From the right wing, Rutta wound up a slapshot that slipped between Darcy Kuemper’s arm and body for the game-opening goal.
TBL 1, COL 1
5: 07 Valeri Nichushkin (9) – Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon
On the faceoff immediately following a Tampa Bay icing, the Avalanche leveled the score at one. Colorado won the draw and Cale Makar’s shot from the top of the right circle was fought off awkwardly by Andrei Vasilevskiy. The rebound popped free for Valeri Nichushkin at the far post to guide over the line.
TBL 2, COL 1
8: 10 Nikita Kucherov (8) – Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry – PPG
Courtesy of some big-time shot blocking from the Avalanche penalty killers, Tampa Bay was nearly turned away on a 4-on-3 power play minutes after the game was tied. With all the open space, the Lightning’s puck retrieval was able to quickly regain possession and the play was eventually worked to Nikita Kucherov in the high slot for a one-timer that put them back in front.
TBL 2, COL 2
2: 31 Cale Makar (8) – Devon Toews, Valeri Nichushkin
Less than three minutes into the third, Cale Makar’s shot was fought off by Vasilevskiy, but the rebound bounced free into the slot. The puck pinballed around the front of the net and took an Avalanche bounce back on goal through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole.
TBL 3, COL 2
13: 38 Ondrej Palat (11) – Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev
On the game-winning goal, Tampa Bay waited patiently for a shooting lane to open, passing up what appeared to be good looks while waiting for the perfect opportunity. Eventually Victor Hedman was able to find Ondrej Palat open in the slot. Palat’s shot was partially stopped by Kuemper but had enough on it to barely squeak over the line.
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