For a moment, it looked like Game 5 of the Stanley Cup would follow a sadly familiar script for the Lightning.
Just like they had in Game 4 two nights before, Tampa Bay couldn’t hold a pair of one-goal leads and conceded the equalizer on an awkward rebound early in the third.
Instead, the Bolts dug in.
It was Ondrej Palat who played the Lightning hero again, scoring the game-winning goal 13:38 of the third to lift Tampa Bay to a 3-2 win that keeps their season alive.
The score of the box | Strong points
It was another clutch moment from Palat amid a post-season run that has been full of it.
John Rutta scored the only goal of the first period, but Valeri Nichushkin fired 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 responded with the equalizer on a lucky rebound early in the third period to set the stage for the late winner of Palat.
Andrei Vasilevsky backed up the win with 35 saves on 37 shots for the Avalanche.
It was just the first step back for the Lightning, who still face a 3-2 series deficit and must survive two more playoff games if they want 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
As the Lightning changed behind the play, Jan Rutta took a Corey Perry pass to center ice and ventured alone into the Colorado zone. From the right wing, Rutta curled a slapshot that slipped through Darcy Kuemper’s arm and body for the game’s first goal.
TBL 1, COL 1
5:07 Valeri Nichushkin (9) – Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon
On the face-off immediately after a Tampa Bay punt, the Avalanche tied the score at one. Colorado won the tie and Cale Makar’s shot from the top of the right circle was awkwardly denied by Andrei Vasilevskiy. The rebound broke free for Valeri Nichushkin at the far post to guide down the line.
TBL 2, COL 1
8:10 Nikita Kucherov (8) – Steven StamkosCorey Perry – PPG
Thanks to a big shot block from the Avalanche’s penalty killers, Tampa Bay was nearly pushed back on a 4-on-3 power play minutes after the game was tied. With all the space open, the Lightning’s puck recovery was able to quickly regain possession and the play eventually went 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, Valery Nichushkin
Less than three minutes into the third, Cale Makar’s shot was saved by Vasilevskiy, but the rebound bounced into the slot. The puck flipped in front of the net and salvaged an Avalanche rebound on net through Vasilevskiy’s five holes.
TBL 3, COL 2
13:38 Ondrej Palat (11) – Victor HedmanMikhail Sergachev
On the game-winning goal, Tampa Bay patiently waited for a shooting lane to open, letting what looked like a good appearance wait for the perfect opportunity. Eventually, Victor Hedman was able to find Ondrej Palat open in the slot. Palat’s shot was partially blocked by Kuemper but had enough to barely go over the line.