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Hedman’s double OT winner lifts Lightning to Eastern Conference Final

Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

Entering Game 5 of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Lightning have found ways to win both close games and blowouts. Most notable has been their ability to finish teams off in overtime. Going into Monday night’s contest against the Boston Bruins, the Lightning already needed OT once in this series, a 4-3 Game 2 win in which Ondrej Palat notched the game-winner.

With a 3-1 series lead and a chance to eliminate the Bruins in five games, the Lightning knew they were going to have their hands full with a desperate Boston team trying to keep their season going. Despite surrendering the tying goal in the final minutes of the third period, Tampa Bay found a way in a second OT and are now off to the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time since 2015.

Victor Hedman’s goal at 14:10 of the second OT gave the Lightning a hard-fought and exhausting 3-2 win over the Bruins at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, closing out their second round series in five games and giving Tampa Bay a chance for some much-needed rest before traveling to Edmonton for the conference final. The victory wasn’t without some worry for the Lightning, however, as Nikita Kucherov left the game with what appeared to be an unknown injury in the second period and did not return. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 45 saves on 47 Boston shots, while Jaroslav Halak turned aside 32 of 35 shots in defeat. This was Tampa Bay’s fourth OT victory of the playoffs, having dusted off Columbus twice and Boston twice when extra hockey is needed.

Some wide-open hockey and missed opportunities for both sides

If you’re a fan of fast-paced hockey and high-quality scoring chances, then the first period of Game 5 was for you. While the shots on goal for the period was a modest 8-5 in favor of the Bruins, each team generated a few excellent scoring opportunities.

Brayden Point mesmerized the Bruins with his puck-handling, setting up Kucherov for a great look. Unfortunately for the Lightning, his shot rang off the post. A tremendous passing sequence led to Alex Killorn firing a shot from the right side of the net with an open look. However, Halak denied the Lightning winger, keeping it scoreless. Later on, Kucherov stole a puck and passed up an open look to feed the hot stick of Ondrej Palat, but the shot got blocked. At the other end, Charlie Coyle skated around Kevin Shattenkirk and cut to the net alone, but Vasilevskiy shut the door on that chance.

At the 12:48 mark of the period, Zdeno Chara caught Kucherov with a high stick to the face in front of the Bruins’ net. As a result, the Lightning found themselves with a four-minute power play chance.

What did the Bolts do with a golden opportunity to take the lead? Absolutely nothing. With Kucherov in the locker room following the high stick, Tampa Bay generated zero shots on goal on the double minor. They looked absolutely lost without Kucherov quarterbacking their power play. On the bright side, the Ligthning’s penalty killers stepped up by killing off a late Boston power play following a hooking penalty on Barclay Goodrow.

Kucherov comes back, Palat’s hot streak continues

Kucherov made his return in the second period, and the Lightning fed off that early on. Point made an excellent defensive play to break up a chance for Brad Marchand, who attempted to cut to the net for a shot. Point immediately followed it up by setting Palat up for high-quality chance, only to see Halak make a timely save.

At the 4:21 mark, Palat finally broke through after coming so very close a couple of times. Black Coleman and Yanni Gourde did what they do best: ferociously forecheck. Keeping the pressure up, the puck ended up on the stick of Shattenkirk at the point. Shattenkirk let a shot fly with Palat getting his stick on it through a crowd and deflecting it past Halak for his fifth of the playoffs.

Soon after the goal, Vasilevskiy came up with a big save on Chara to preserve the lead. Boston began generating more pressure and shots, but the Lightning’s Vezina Trophy finalist was up to the task. The Palat goal actually got the Bruins going and they began controlling play for much of the remainder of the period.

Boston ties it up, Kucherov leaves again

With Kucherov in penalty box for tripping, the Bruins’ power play, which has given the Lightning issues, made them pay. Following a poor clearing attempt by Mikhail Sergachev, Boston kept up the pressure, eventually leading to David Krejci setting up David Pastrnak. Pastrnak made no mistake, ripping a one-timer past Vasilevskiy for his third of the playoffs at the 12:38 mark.

Despite being out-shot 23-13 through two periods, Tampa Bay nearly regained the lead, but Halak came up with an incredible save on Palat following some great forechecking by Point and a brilliant setup from Pat Maroon.

Soon after the Bruins tied the game, Kucherov left the game again and did not return for the remainder of the game.

Vasilevskiy dialed in, McAvoy goes down

The Bruins carried over their solid play from the second period into the third, with Karson Kuhlman nearly putting Boston on top. Getting behind the Lightning defense, he cut to the net and tried to go wide, but Vasilevskiy tracked him every step of the way and made a good save.

A few minutes later, some controversy erupted when Cedric Paquette hit Charlie McAvoy in the corner, leaving the Bruins’ young star defenseman crumpled in a heap.

No penalty was called on the play, as the officials seemed to believe that McAvoy stopped at the last second and turned, leading to Paquette crashing into him. McAvoy left the game, but would eventually return.

Cirelli gives the Lightning the lead, but Boston ties it up

With just under 8 minutes to go, Point won an important offensive zone faceoff, getting the puck back to Hedman. Hedman uncorked a shot, and Anthony Cirelli deflected it home for his second of the playoffs and first since Game 5 of the first round against Columbus.

With 2:33 remaining and the Bruins putting on the pressure, Chara sent the puck towards the net, deflecting off Palat and changing direction. The puck found Krecji cutting to the net, and the bounce led to him putting it into an open net and tying the game 2-2, forcing overtime for the second time this series.

The Bruins continue to carry play in OT, but Vasilevskiy comes up large.

Tampa Bay failed to register a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes of overtime, as Boston generated more shots, offensive zone time, and scoring chances than the Bolts early on. Fortunately for the Lightning, Vasilevskiy kept them afloat, coming up with multiple timely saves, including back-to-back stops on McAvoy and Par Lindholm off a rush and a rebound.

It was clear how much the Lightning were missing Kucherov, especially since they dressed 11 forwards for this game. But with 9:33 to go in the period, Krejci went to the box for tripping after curiously not being called for slashing Point’s stick in two a couple minutes before. While Tampa Bay didn’t score on the ensuing power play, the man-advantage gave them life and they began to create a few chances of their own. However, neither team could find the back of the net and the game continued on. Shots were 46-28 for Boston, 11-7 in the first overtime.

Hedman to the rescue in the second overtime

As the second OT period began to drag on, both teams continued to play fairly conservatively, attempting to conserve their energy and not commit that fatal mistake that would cost them the game. However, the Lightning took control as the fifth period wore on. With 5:50 to go on the clock, the Lightning kept the play alive in Boston’s end with a long shift, moving the puck around and waiting for the perfect chance to end it. Hedman collected a pass and moved toward the left faceoff dot. With Maroon providing a screen, Hedman shot the puck through Brandon Carlo’s legs, squeezing the puck past Halak, putting the exclamation point on a hard-fought victory. Not only was the goal the fifth of the playoffs for Hedman, it was also the first playoff OT winner of his career.

Tampa Bay awaits the winner of the other second round series between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders currently lead that series 3-1.

Our Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 45 of 47 shots. Without some heroics from him over the final two periods and the first overtime, this game probably goes to Boston.

2nd Star: Victor Hedman – Series-winning goal in double OT.

3rd Star: Ondrej Palat – Extended his goal streak to four games, tying the franchise record for longest postseason goal streak.

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