There will be Game 6. The Tampa Bay Lightning went to a rowdy ballpark and secured a daring 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game Five of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. The back-to-back champs are not quite over yet, despite the game entering the series 3-1. Colorado won Game 4 in overtime in Tampa. Lightning returned the favor on Friday, after winning in Colorado.
As in Game 3, Lightning led with a score of 1-0, 2-1. This time, Yan Ruta and Nikita Kucherov scored for Tampa Bay, and Colorado entered the third half one goal down. However, it didn’t take long for the breakdown to take things to a higher level, with a shot from Cal Makar receiving a positive rebound from Lightning defender Eric Cernak skating for offside by Tampa goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Unfazed by bad luck, the lighting kept pushing and eventually broke through to take the lead. With 6:22 left in regulation, Victor Hedman snapped into the corner and found Ondrej Palat wide open in the slot. Balat didn’t miss a glorious scoring opportunity, firing a shot into the legs of Colorado guard Darcy Comber.
No one expected this Lightning team would roll and hand the avalanche the Stanley Cup, but this was still an impressive victory. Avalanche will once again attempt to end the series at Game Six on Sunday night. Puck Drop is set after 8:00 PM ET.
The return of the battle of the bolts
No one should be surprised that Lightning had an incredible fight in Denver, but overcoming an avalanche at home is tough, especially with foam in the mouth for another Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay looked lost in games 1 and 2, but the team fought back for three periods in game five.
The lightning didn’t really need to withstand a storm in the first period, because there was no crushing impulse from the avalanche. Instead, it was a fairly open frame, and Tampa went into the locker room with the bullets in. By far the most impressive part of the Bolts’ performance was how they responded after allowing an early goal in the third inning on an unlucky rebound. The ball arena was rowdy, and Vasilevsky had to make some big saves, but Tampa caught on again quickly and scored the match-winning goal. Lightning has gone through a lot, and there is simply no panic in this group. That was on display tonight.
The goal is the difference
This was the most played game in the series up to this point, and one goal was the difference. This means that one critical error by Kuemper was looming large on the scoreboard. Just from looking at the number of shots, Kuemper had a decent night. He’s stopped 26 of the 29 shots he’s faced, but Tampa Bay’s first goal should have been stopped if Colorado wanted to end the streak. Rota let a seemingly harmless shot fly off the right circle, but slipped it between Kuemper’s gauntlet and a cushion to light the flashlight. Kuemper then settled, but one mistake lost that game to Avs. He’s had a lot of these lapses throughout the post season, but they haven’t really cost Avs yet. His counterpart, Vasilevskiy, stopped 35 of 37 shots against him as he performed another flawless one. I’ve said it before, but this goal mismatch is Tampa’s best shot to win the Stanley Cup Final.
Ondrej Palat is coming big again
Palat isn’t the biggest star in the NHL, but he definitely has an argument for being the most amenable. With another goal winning the game in Game 5, Palates wrote another chapter in his encyclopedia of post-season tournaments.
That third-half tally was the 12th game-winning goal in Balat’s career, dating back to 2014. According to Sportsnet, he ranked third among active players, behind only Joe Pavelsky and Evgeny Malkin. This is not a bad company. In each of Tampa Bay’s last two Stanley Cup careers, the Palates scored two game-winning goals, but he has outdone himself this year. This was Palat’s third winner in the 2022 qualifiers, and there’s at least one more game to add to that total. For whatever reason, when the game gets tight, Palat is the one to step up and get it done for Lightning.
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