DENVER (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled Colorado’s party to continue chasing a third straight Stanley Cup title, beating the Avalanche 3-2 on Friday night in Game 5.
Ondrej Palat scored with 6:22 to go and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots in front of a rowdy crowd in hopes of celebrating the Avalanche’s first championship in 21 years. The Cup was completely shining and also in the building.
It heads back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday night. The Lightning follows the best-of-seven series 3-2.
Nikita Kucherov and defender Jan Rutta also scored for the Lightning. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar had goals for Colorado. Makar’s count in the third period bounced off Erik Cernak’s skate and through Vasilevskiy’s pads to put it at 2.
It set the tone for Palat, whose shot slipped through Darcy Kuemper’s pads. A brief silence fell over the crowd.
Tampa Bay regrouped after an emotional loss in Game 4 at home to an overtime goal by Colorado forward Nazem Kadri. The Lightning thought the Avalanche might have had too many players on the ice for the winner.
One too many players on the ice penalty was called on Friday at Colorado with 2:43 left. The Lightning continued the power play and prevented Colorado Kuemper from pulling until about 30 seconds were left. They endured the late barrage of the Avalanche.
Just the Lightning showing off their championship prowess. They have already recovered from a 3-2 deficit to Toronto in the first round and climbed out of a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.
If they win this comeback series, they would be in a completely different category. Only one team has gathered to capture a Game 7 in the Finals after trailing 3-1 in a series – the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
This is a tough Lightning squad showing no signs of slowing down even against a fast Avalanche squad and even after all the games they have recorded. Tampa Bay has played in 67 postseason games since the start of the first round in 2020. That’s actually a whole extra season.
Their determination has impressed Lightning coach Jon Cooper. His team improved to 3-0 this season as he faced potential knockouts.
The Avalanche are trying to capture their first title since 2001. The Avalanche fans were out in full force—both inside the building (a top-tier ticket on match day cost about $1,500) and outside at a nearby viewing party.
Colorado knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Makar said the run-up to the game was the “toughest we’ve had yet.”
The Avalanche are 2 for 2 in their visits to the Stanley Cup final. They also won in 1996, which was their first season in Denver after moving from Quebec.
Shortly after Nichushkin made it to 1-apiece in the second, Kucherov knocked a goal off the post. The power play goal was with Alex Killorn in the penalty area, along with JT Compher (holding stick) and Makar (tripping), making for a 4-on-3 situation.
Rutta sucked some of the energy out of the crowd with his first goal of the playoffs. It was on a slapshot from the side that slid through Kuemper.
It bodes well for the Lightning – teams to score the first goal when they stare at elimination in the final are 55-25.
“If we had the choice, we would just write our name all the way around the circle (of the cup),” Cooper croaked before the match.
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