NHL Playoffs: Lightning avoid elimination with gutsy win over Avalanche

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The NHL Playoffs have not disappointed this season and will continue thanks to a gutsy performance by the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, who refuse to give in.

Ondrej Palat played the role of hero in Game 5 to lift the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

“We extended the season and that’s what we wanted to do,” said Bolts captain Steven Stamkos via NHL.com. “We talked about one game at a time. It was a grind, but we found a way. Great effort and now we’ve got to do it again.”

The Avalanche still lead the series 3-2 with another chance to close it out Sunday night in Tampa.

NHL Playoffs: Lightning 3 vs Avalanche 2

Jun 24, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates the victory against the Colorado Avalanche following game five of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Palat broke a third period tie with 6:22 remaining to keep the Lightning alive in the Stanley Cup Final. It was a beautiful passing play by Victor Hedman that eventually led to a one-timer in the slot for the game-winner.

“I was just trying to get open and get lost a little bit, and I saw ‘Heddy’ and he sees me, so it was just easy shot for me,” Palat said. “I’m just trying to one-time it, and lucky enough it went in.”

Jan Rutta and Nikita Kucherov were the other Tampa goal scorers. Mikhail Sergachev and Corey Perry recorded two assists each. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who continues to improve in the series stopped 36 of 38 in the winning effort.

On the losing side, Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar both notched a goal and an assist. Darcy Kuemper, who has been excellent in this series made 26 saves and almost stopped Palat’s goal before sneaking through his pads.

“It’s not supposed to be easy and it’s not going to be easy,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “Vasilevskiy had another good night. We felt good about our game, we tied it up in the third and then obviously they created a slot shot there that squeezes through ‘Kuemps.’ So, it is what it is. Short memory in the playoffs, and that’s what we’re going to do.”