Avalanche vs. Lightning score Stanley Cup Final Game 5: Tampa wins 3-2, stays alive after Palat game-winner

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There will be a Game 6. The Tampa Bay Lightning went into a raucous Ball Arena and pulled out a gutsy 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. The back-to-back champs are not quite done yet, despite entering the game down in the series 3-1. Colorado won Game 4 in overtime in Tampa. The Lightning returned the favor on Friday, pulling out this win in Colorado.

Much like in Game 3, the Lightning took leads of 1-0 and 2-1. This time, Jan Rutta and Nikita Kucherov did the scoring for Tampa Bay, and Colorado entered the third period trailing by one goal. However, it didn’t take long for the Avalanche to even things up, as a Cale Makar shot received a favorable bounce off the skate of Lightning defender Eric Cernak to sneak by Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Not rattled by the bad puck luck, the Lighting kept pushing and eventually broke through to take the lead. With 6:22 left in regulation, Victor Hedman pinched into the corner and found Ondrej Palat wide open in the slot. Palat didn’t miss on a glorious scoring chance, firing a bullet through the legs of Colorado keeper Darcy Kuemper.

No one expected this Lightning team to roll over and hand the Avalanche the Stanley Cup, but this was still an impressive victory. The Avalanche will again try to end the series in Game 6 on Sunday night. Puck drop is set for just after 8:00 p.m. ET.

Bolts Battle Back

No one should be surprised that the Lightning put up an incredible fight in Denver, but beating the Avalanche at home is a tall order, especially with the fans foaming at the mouth for another Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay looked lost in Games 1 and 2, but the team battled for three periods in Game 5.

The Lightning didn’t really need to weather a storm in the first period because, to their credit, there wasn’t an overwhelming push by the Avalanche. Instead, it was a fairly even opening frame, and Tampa went to the locker room with the lead. By far the most impressive part of the Bolts’ showing was how they responded after allowing an early third-period goal on an unlucky bounce. Ball Arena was buzzing, and Vasilevskiy had to make a few big saves, but Tampa reignited quickly and netted the game-winning goal. The Lightning have been through a lot, and there is simply no panic in this group. That was on display tonight.

Goaltending is the Difference

This was the most evenly played game of the series to this point, and one goal made all the difference. That meant one major blunder by Kuemper loomed large on the scoreboard. Just from looking at the shot count, Kuemper had a decent night. He stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced, but the first Tampa Bay goal was one he has to stop if Colorado wants to finish this series. Rutta let a seemingly harmless slapshot fly from the right circle, but it slipped between Kuemper’s glove and pad to light the lamp. Kuemper settled in after that, but one mistake lost this game for the Avs. He has had too many of those lapses throughout the postseason, but it hasn’t really cost the Avs yet. His counterpart, Vasilevskiy, stopped 35 of the 37 shots against him as he turned in another impeccable playoff performance. I’ve said it before, but this goaltending mismatch is Tampa’s best shot to win this Stanley Cup Final.

Ondrej Palat Comes Up Big Again

Palat isn’t the biggest star in the NHL, but he certainly has a case for being the most clutch. With yet another game-winning goal in Game 5, Palat wrote another chapter in his encyclopedia of postseason heroics.

That third-period tally was the 12th game-winning playoff goal of Palat’s career, dating back to 2014. According to Sportsnet, that ranks third among active players, behind only Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Malkin. That’s not bad company. In each of Tampa Bay’s last two Stanley Cup runs, Palat scored two game-winning goals, but he has outdone himself this year. That was Palat’s third game-winner of the 2022 playoffs, and there is at least one more game for him to add to that total. For whatever reason, when the game gets tight, Palat is the one who steps up and gets it done for the Lightning.

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