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Ondrej Palat scores game-winning goal to force Game 6 in Stanley Cup Final

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning survived another game on the trek to hoisting up the Stanley Cup. 

In a nail-biter, the Bolts edged out the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 to secure the win and pick up some track as the Avs lead the series now, 3-2 (too). The Bolts have to win two more to three-peat. 

Tampa Bay managed to score in each period: Jan Rutta in the first, Nikita Kucherov in the second and Ondrej Palat put the team on top with his game-winning goal in the third. Palat scored his 12th career game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and trails only Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Malkin for the most among active players, the NHL says.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, showing resilience in Game 5.

The Bolts dominated on power plays and were able to wear down the Avs Darcy Kuemper to get the puck in the net. Now the teams head back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday, June 26, at Amalie Arena.

Game blog

Final: Lightning 3 | Avalanche 2

3rd period

13:38 Ondrej Palat scores, assisted by Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman

2:31 Valeri Nichushkin scores for the Avs, assisted by Cale Makar and Devon Toews

2nd period

8:10 Nikita Kucherov scores, assisted by Corey Perry and Steven Stamkos

5:07 Valeri Nichushkin scores for the Avs, assisted by Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar

1st period

15:21 Jan Rutta scores, assisted by Mikhail Sergachev and Corey Perry 

Original story: The Tampa Bay Lightning will try and do something that has only happened once in NHL history — overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final.

That was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs accomplishing the feat after winning four straight against the Detroit Red Wings.

If we want more recent examples in professional sports, the Bolts can look back to 2016 when both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Cavaliers got it done.

"We're still in it," Bolts forward Pat Maroon said. "Obviously, it's a tough loss, but the good thing is we're still playing hockey. We haven't lost yet. It's the first one to four wins right now. We've got a challenge in front of us, but if it's one team that can do it, it's this team."

Pat Maroon is not wrong. The Tampa Bay Find A Ways have stared down dire situations before in these playoffs. None of them quite had the emotional impact of Game 4 where a controversial overtime goal decided the contest, but the Lightning have already moved on from that.

"It probably happens more times than we think," Bolts defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "It's impossible to say what's the right decision there. It's so fast and it probably happens a million times a game more than we think."

Head coach Jon Cooper said Thursday afternoon, "Nothing we can do to turn back. (The refs) missed it. It's unfortunate, but it's water under the bridge now. Should be a hell of a Game 5."

Besides the missed call, that Game 4 loss stings because the Bolts played a pretty good contest. They were peppering the net with shots, Andrei Vasilevskiy was fantastic and puck management was pristine. Give credit to Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper who put the Avalanche on his back throughout regulation.

While the Lightning looked in control for most of the first two periods, the team looked like it was slowing down towards the 3rd period. Then, once it was overtime, Colorado was overwhelming. 

Game 2 & Game 3 were a wash, but the Avalanche are up 3-1 in the series because they have more legs at the end of these overtime bouts.

Now, Colorado gets to come home with an opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup in front of the hometown crowd, something the Lightning did last year.

"It's not an easy thing to do," captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's a pretty nerve-wracking day."

Stamkos and Victor Hedman have a success story to tell their teammates in the locker room. In 2011, the Lightning trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 before rattling off three straight wins, including two road victories. That 2011 squad also lost Game 4 at home with a 3-2 overtime loss.

The Tampa Bay championship run started in 2020 when the group went 6-2 in OT thrillers. Since then, Cooper's group has struggled mightily going 1-6 with its sole victory in Game 6 at AMALIE Arena against Toronto.

The Lightning are not as young as they once were and they are too beaten up to go into a long battle throughout the night. We are still unsure of Brayden Point's status for Game 5, but we do know Erik Cernak, Anthony Cirelli, Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel are hurting.

The question Jon Cooper and Steven Stamkos asked the team before the season was 'Is your cup full?'

I think we can all confidently say the Bolts have proven the desire is there, but it's not about being full -- it's about being empty.

This Tampa Bay Lightning squad looks gassed.

If this is the end, no one can deny the heart of this team, but let's not count them out quite yet.

"We have a proud group because that's why we're in our third-straight Final," Cooper said. "It takes more than talent alone to get where we are and do what this group of players has done. Pride is a big, big part of it, but, listen, we're still kicking."

Winning three straight is going to come down to will and sheer determination.

The fourth win is always the toughest to get — the Bolts are not knocked out yet.

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