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Resilient Lightning Survive Denver and Force Game Six in Tampa

Once again the Tampa Bay Lightning showed why they are champions. With their backs against the wall and seemingly all the odds against them, the Lightning somehow someway found a way to win game five and survive another day. The game unfolded in a similar way to game four. The Lightning held leads of 1-0 and 2-1. However, this time, as he’s done all post season, Ondrej Palat came through in the biggest moment to give the Lightning a 3-2 win.

Another Solid First

Just like in game four, the Lightning put forth a very solid effort in the first period. Although the dramatics of a very early goal were absent, the first period was one of Tampa’s strongest segments of the game. Facing elimination, it was clear that the Lightning had an extra pep in their step. Where they had looked labored in trying to keep up with the Avalanche throughout most of the series, the quickness came a little more natural in game five.  They were able to exit the d-zone relatively cleanly and start to spend time in the Colorado end.

The Lightning’s pressure would earn them two early powerplays. However as for much of the series the powerplay continued to struggle. After killing off the two penalties the Avalanche started to pick up their pace and got some of their most dangerous looks on the delayed penalty while the Lightning were scrambling to touch the puck. Despite this Tampa Bay would survive the dangerous Colorado powerplay to keep the game scoreless.  Then with just over 4:30 to go a unlikely hero would put the Lightning on the board.

Streaking down the wing Jan Rutta found some time and space to wire a shot the squeaked under the glove of Darcy Kuemper to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

 

As a whole the Lightning defended very well. However, the last minute contained some of Colorado’s best chances of the period. This included a partial breakaway for Nathan MacKinnon the he slipped underneath Andrei Vasilevskiy, through the crease and just wide. Despite these dangerous looks from the Avalanche, the Lightning were able to survive with their 1-0 lead intact.

Back and Forth Second

For as talented and as skilled as the Avalanche our, a team still needs some breaks to be able to win a Stanley Cup and five games. And early on in the second period they got one. Although Victor Hedman had deflected the puck from beyond the redline, it seemed as if Nick Paul had won the race to the circle. At the very least Paul had inside position with a clear lane to the puck in the corner. However it was called an icing which would set Colorado up for their first goal of the game. Off the ensuing faceoff, Cale Makar fired a shot that Vasilevskiy couldn’t handle. The rebound popped right to Valeri Nichuskin who slide it into an open net to tie the game at one. Although Colorado would generate some chances, the most decisive moment of the period would come on a 4-on-4.

With Alex Killorn and J.T Compher in the box for holding the stick, Cale Makar took a crucial tripping penalty to give the Lightning a 4-on-3 powerplay. Using the extra ice they were able to move the puck around crisply and cleanly and finally breakthrough on the powerplay. After a fake one-time and a little hesitation, Steven Stamkos slide a pass to Nikita Kucherov who one-timed a bullet off the post and in to give the Lightning another one-goal lead.

The Lightning would continue to defend well as they were able to limit the Avalanche’s scoring chances for the remainder of the period and killed of a penalty. When they did break down, Vasilevksiy was there to make a save including a poke check on a partial breakaway from Makar. Much like game four, the Lightning would hold on and take their 2-1 lead into the third period.

Bolts Survive, Force Game Six

Following the script of game four, the Avalanche would get an early third period goal to tie it in game five. To no one’s surprise it was Makar creating the offense. Just looking to put a puck on net he sent one off the blocker of Vasilevskiy. The rebound took a generous Colorado bounce and ricocheted off the skate of Eric Cernak, through the pads of Vasilevskiy and into the back of the net.

The goal gave Colorado a plethora of momentum and it looked as if Tampa Bay’s chances at a three-peat were fading away. However, the Lightning slowly started to push to back, until Mr. Clutch Ondrej Palat put the Lightning up for good. With the top line out and the Lightning defensemen activated deep in the zone Mikhail Sergachev and Hedman would play catch before finding Palat in the slot who fired a quick release past Kuemper and in.

It marked Palat’s third game-winning goal and 7th in the third period this postseason. It was also his 12th career playoff game-winning goal which places him third among active players.

With 6:30 to go the job was not done. The Avalanche pushed back but made a critical mistake that would ultimately seal their fate. In a ironic twist Colorado took a too-many men penalty with just under three minutes to go. Although the Lightning wouldn’t score, it took time off the clock and kept the Avalanche off the attack. Although they would threaten in the final minute, Tampa Bay was able to survive and force a game six back at Amalie Arena.

Road Ahead

Game six will head back to Tampa Bay and Amalie Arena Sunday. Given that Colorado has not lost back-to-back games all postseason and have only lost four times, the odds are still stacked against the Lightning. However, one can never under estimate the heart of a champion and with home ice Tampa Bay has more than a fair shot to send the series back to Colorado for an all decisive game seven.

Three Stars

3rd- Corey Perry: 2 Assists

2nd- Cale Makar: 1 Goal and 1 Assist

1st- Ondrej Palat: GWG

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