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Ondrej Palat scored with just over six minutes remaining to lift the Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Avalanche in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final Friday at Ball Arena in Denver.
With the win, Tampa Bay denied Colorado a chance to clinch the Cup and trimmed their deficit in the best-of-seven series to three games to two heading to Game 6 Sunday in Tampa.
Jan Rutta and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, who kept their hopes for a third straight NHL championship alive for at least another game.
Rutta opened the scoring on a long-range shot with 4:37 to play in the first period. Colorado tied it when Valeri Nichushkin scored on a rebound of a Cale Makar shot just over five minutes into the second.
Kucherov put the Lightning back ahead with a 4-on-3 power-play goal just over eight minutes into the second period. The Avalanche again came back to tie when a Makar shot that Vasilevskiy stopped went off Erik Cernak’s skate and through the goaltender’s legs 2-1/2 minutes into the third.
Vasilevskiy stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced. Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves on 29 shots.
Cernak returned after taking a Nathan MacKinnon shot off his left leg Wednesday in Game 4. Center Anthony Cirelli (arm) also was in the lineup. Center Brayden Point (lower body) was scratched for the 13th time in the past 15 games.
Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky, who scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 1 before missing the past two games with a hand injury suffered during Game 2, also was scratched.
Here’s how it happened:
Nazem Kadri shot gloved by Andrei Vasilevskiy
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare collides with Erik Johnson
AVALANCHE GOAL: Cale Makar shot from right circle is saved by Vasilevskiy but hits Erik Cernak’s skate and goes through Vasilevskiy’s legs into the net. Lightning 2, Avalanche 2 (2:31)
Mikhail Sergachev shot from the slot hits the post and richochets out
Ross Colton shot blocked by Darcy Kuemper
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Makar misses wide after a steal in the neutral zone
Bowen Byram shot from left circle saved by Vasilevskiy
Kucherov shot goes off a skate into the corner
Makar in obvious pain after taking a shot off his foot
Nico Sturm flips the puck in on Vasilevskiy, who holds it
LIGHTNING GOAL! An Ondrej Palat shot from the slot leaks through Kuemper. Hedman gets the primary assist. Lightning 3, Avalanche 2. 6:22 left.
Avalanche penalized for too many men on the ice, putting Lightning on the power play for 2:00 of the final 2:43
Hedman blast from center point stopped by Kuemper
Avalanche kill the penalty
Colorado pulls Kuemper for an extra attacker
(Lightning win 3-2, trail 3-2 in series)
Mikko Rantanen shot blocked by Victor Hedman
Puck comes off Nazem Kadri’s stick on wraparound attempt after Andrei Vasilevskiy pokecheck
Andrew Cogliano shot goes off Vasilevskiy’s blocker and up into the netting
Nathan MacKinnon wrist shot saved by Vasilevskiy
Pat Maroon shoots off the left side of the net
Nikita Kucherov shot goes off Josh Manson into the corner
Stamkos gets open in slot but deflects puck wide
Lightning ice the puck
AVALANCHE GOAL: Nichushkin gets inside position on Paul in the crease and backhands a rebound of a Makar shot from above the right circle that Vasilevskiy couldn’t handle. Lightning 1, Avalanche 1 (5:07)
Alex Killorn penalized for holding J.T. Compher and Compher penalized for holding Killorn’s stick, so we’ll have 4-on-4 play for two minutes
Makar penalized for tripping Palat, giving Lightning a 4-on-3 power play for 1:29. Tampa Bay puts four forwards on the ice (6:58)
Stamkos misses net on one-timer from left circle
Kucherov wrist shot blocked by Josh Manson
LIGHTNING GOAL! Kucherov scores 4-on-3 power-play goal from center point after Stamkos fakes shot from left circle. Lightning 2, Avalanche 1 (8:10)
Pat Maroon takes down Nathan MacKinnon after play was stopped when Vasilevskiy’s mask came off
Hedman and Sergachev preventing MacKinnon from splitting them on the rush
Makar prevents Cirelli scoring chance at the other end
Ross Colton penalized for high-sticking Logan O’Connor
MacKinnon shot wide of the net
MacKinnon one-timer from left circle blocked by Erik Cernak
Vasilevskiy deflects Makar stick out of play after Makar split two defensemen
MacKinnon one-timer saved by Vasilevskiy
Vasilevskiy makes glove save on Kadri shot from left circle
Lightning kill the Colton penalty
Stamkos can’t get off a shot from in close
Sergachev breaks up Nichushkin chance on the rush
(Lightning lead 2-1 after two periods)
Devon Toews drive from left point squeezed between pads of Andrei Vasilevskiy
Lightning ice the puck
Lightning again ice the puck
Ondrej Palat wrist shot saved by Ondrej Palat
Victor Hedman closes out Nazem Kadri against the boards
Jack Johnson puts punishing hit on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare at offensive blue line
Kuemper covers tip from Palat
J.T. Compher penalized for high-sticking Palat, Lightning go on the power play (1-14 in series, 1 for last 20 dating back to ECF)
Ross Colton shot from right circle hits Kuemper in the midsection
Cale Makar bangs the puck around the boards and out of the zone
Colton couldn’t get it in deep, and Andrew Cogliano clears the puck
Artturi Lehkonen clears the puck
Nikita Kucherov looks for Palat tip in front
Valeri Nichushkin prevents Corey Perry from getting puck over to Hedman at left post
Hedman shot defelects into the corner
Avalanche kill the penalty; Lightning had one shot on goal
Bowen Byram throws puck in front of the net and it’s covered by Vasilevskiy
Vasilevskiy gloves Erik Johnson shot from left point
Nazem Kadri penalized for hooking Nick Paul (6:58) on the backcheck, Lightning’s second power play in seven minutes
Kuemper makes glove save on fluttering shot from Perry from above the circles
Toews clears the puck out of the zone
Avalanche again clear the puck
Nichushkin skates the puck out of the zone
Toews shot wide of the net
Avalanche kill the penalty and Kadri skates puck out of the zone
Cale Makar shot hits Kadri
Kuemper makes glove save on Hagel wrist shot from high in right circle (10:00)
Hedman misses net from left circle
Kucherov shot from center point steered aside
Kadri shot from slot on delayed penalty gets behind Vasilevskiy but wide out of the net
Steven Stamkos penalized for tripping Nathan MacKinnon as he drives to the net (11:17)
Lightning clear puck out of the zone
Paul shorthanded chance from the slot misses wide
Cernak breaks up Landeskog centering pass
Lehkonen chance from in front goes up over the net
Vasilevskiy makes pad save on MacKinnon one-timer from left circle
Cirelli clears the puck out of the zone
Bellemare forces a turnover and Lightning clear the puck
Vasilevskiy catches Nichushkin shot from left point
Lightning kill the penalty
Vasilevskiy makes right pad save on Helm shot from the high slot
Alex Newhook shot from right circle saved by Vasilevskiy
LIGHTNING GOAL! Jan Rutta blast from right point beats Kuemper under the glove; Rutta’s first goal of the playoffs. Lightning 1, Avalanche 0 (4:37 left)
Kadri shot from in close goes off Vasilevskiy’s pads
MacKinnon shot from right circle deflected wide
MacKinnon beats Vasilevskiy through the legs on a breakaway but misses wide
Landeskog wrist shot saved by Vasilevskiy
Makar shot blocked by Hagel
(Lightning lead 1-0 after one period)
Pregame scouting report
The Stanley Cup is in the building.
That’s not a good thing. At least, not yet.
That’s because the Lightning are three wins away from the four needed to earn the NHL’s championship trophy.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche, who lead the Stanley Cup final 3-1, can end the Bolts’ two-season reign as early as tonight in Game 5.
Tampa Bay has come back from two-game deficits before, dropping the first two games to the Rangers before winning the next four in the Eastern Conference final. And it has persevered in elimination games, taking Games 6 and 7 of its opening-round series to move past Toronto.
But never over the past three postseasons have the Lightning been down so far so late in a playoff series.
The overtime loss in Game 4 was hard to take, as Colorado had too many men on the ice at the time Nazem Kadri scored the winning goal 12 minutes into the extra period. The league explained in a statement after the game that too-many-men-on-the-ice calls are not subject to video review.
While disappointed, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Thursday his team has moved past the loss and turned its focus to its remaining games.
If it hasn’t, it could be a quick end to the series.
That’s unlikely, given the makeup of the Lightning. They are a proud group, with veteran leaders throughout their dressing room, a recipe for postseason success and more playoff wins (94) than any NHL team since 2010.
They also have plenty of motivation: a chance to become the first team to win three consecutive Cups since the Islanders won four from 1980-83. And they’re likely feeling cheated by the outcome of Game 4.
Can they pull off the unthinkable?
The odds aren’t in their favor. Teams down 3-1 in best-of-seven Cup final series are 1-35. The only team to win was the 1942 Maple Leafs, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the Red Wings.
Then again, the Lightning won three or more straight games on nine different occasions during the regular season.
But they can’t do it all at once. And they’re facing their most formidable opponent yet.
The steep uphill climb begins tonight in Game 5.
Game night scene
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