Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning one win from Stanley Cup final with OT win (w/video)

PITTSBURGH — Wing Alex Killorn jokes it's the same story, one he has seen many times this postseason.

The game is on the line, the Lightning needing a goal. And Nikita Kucherov — somehow, some way — delivers.

"He's one of those guys that it's just in him," Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman said.

The wing did it again Sunday night, scoring two tying goals, the second of which forced overtime with 3:16 to go in regulation in what became a 4-3 overtime victory over the Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.

The Lightning is up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and is one win away from making its second straight appearance in the Stanley Cup final. It would be the first team to play in back-to-back Cup finals since the 2008-09 Penguins and Red Wings.

Kucherov also assisted on the winner 53 seconds into overtime, a Jason Garrison shot that bounced off Tyler Johnson's rear end and in.

"I thought (Garrison) was going for my head again," Johnson said. "So I just turned around."

Kucherov has an NHL-leading 11 playoff goals. Seven of them are tying or go-ahead scores; five of the seven have come in the third period. His plus-17 leads the playoffs.

"When you're a rising star in this league, as he is, every team has one of those guys at some point," coach Jon Cooper said. "It just seems the bigger the moment, the bigger they rise to the occasion. (Kucherov has) proven that last year isn't a fluke. He's just a gifted, skilled and determined player. He's really a pleasure to coach."

The Lightning overcame a lot in this game.

There were gut punches. It gave up a goal in the final minute of each of the first two periods, including one with 0.7 seconds to go in the first that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

There were near-misses. Wing Ryan Callahan watched a potential tying goal harmlessly bounce off both posts and away from the goal with four minutes to go in regulation.

But as much as Cooper quips that his team gives him ulcers, he said there was a quiet calm and confidence on the bench.

"We believed in ourselves," Kucherov said.

And goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy helped keep the game close with another poised performance. With 31 saves, he had his fourth 30-plus-saves effort in this series.

"He's given us a chance to win every single game," Cooper said.

Stralman: "He's been terrific. Unbelievable."

One of Vasilevskiy's top stops came on a crucial penalty kill in the second period with the Lightning down 2-0. He made a sliding stop on Penguins wing Phil Kessel, and defenseman Victor Hedman then saved a goal by thwarting a potential rebound.

Killorn put the Lightning on the board moments later with a snipe shot from the left circle. Kucherov tied it 70 seconds later off a great feed from center Vladislav Namestnikov.

The Penguins had been 46-0 when leading after two periods this season, but that didn't faze the Lightning. On Kucherov's second tying goal, he "got lost," Hedman said, sneaking behind the Pittsburgh net, corralling a loose puck and beating Marc Andre-Fleury, who was making his first start since suffering a concussion March 31.

"He shows once again he's a big game player," Hedman said of Kucherov. "He's got, what, 11, 12 goals now? That's pretty incredible. Hopefully he's not done."

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Lightning 0 2 1 1 4
Penguins 1 2 0 0 3

 

First Period1, Pittsburgh, Dumoulin 1 (Rust, Kunitz), 19:59. PenaltiesMalkin, Pit (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:11; Carle, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:11; Johnson, TB (hooking), 10:36.

Second Period2, Pittsburgh, Hornqvist 7 (Hagelin, Maatta), 1:30. 3, Tampa Bay Killorn 5 (Sustr), 13:15. 4, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 10 (Namestnikov), 14:25. 5, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 4 (Malkin), 19:10. PenaltiesLetang, Pit (slashing), 7:42; Kucherov, TB (holding), 11:02.

Third Period6, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 11 (Johnson, Palat), 16:44. PenaltiesMaatta, Pit (high-sticking), 2:36; Johnson, TB (interference), 4:43.

Overtime7, Tampa Bay, Johnson 7 (Garrison, Kucherov), :53. PenaltiesNone. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 4-9-11-1—25. Pittsburgh 8-13-12-1—34. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 3; Pittsburgh 0 of 3. GoaliesTampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 3-2 (34 shots-31 saves). Pittsburgh, Fleury 0-1 (25-21). A18,648 (18,387).

 
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