It was an elimination game, so it was no surprise that the Lightning played their best 60 minutes of hockey in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Lightning did not play a perfect game by any means but put together a solid 60 minutes to win 3-2 and force a game six back in Tampa on Sunday Night.
As I wrote yesterday, the Lightning seems to play their best in elimination games, and game five was no different.
The Lightning was able to neutralize Colorado’s speed and was much more aggressive forechecking than they were in game four.
They battled to win the loose pucks and were able to keep the puck in the offensive zone more so than in any other game.
The power play showed some signs of life. The Bolts was a dismal 1-13 through the first four games of the finals. Meanwhile, Colorado was executing at a 6-13 clip. Then, finally, Nikita Kucherov broke through at 8:10 of the second period to end the Lightning power-play drought.
The Lightning ended the night 1-4 on the power play and is now 2-17 in the series.
Mikhail Sergachev had his best game this post-season with two assists, and Nikita Kucherov and Jan Rutta scored their first goals in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This was the first time the Lightning never trailed in a game against the Avalanche. Jan Rutta scored his first goal of the playoffs to put the Bolts up 1-0, and they would never trail the rest of the way.
Jon Cooper talked about that championship pedigree that the Bolts exhibited in the 3-2 win in game five. “I don’t even know what else I can say to describe the guys. You’re down in the series, Cups in the building. You’re in a great environment for the home team. And how do you show gamesmanship? Everything we just did. You get the lead. You defend, you kill off penalties, score on the power play. And then when you need the big goal at the end, you get it.”
Ondrej Palat scored his 11th goal of the playoffs at 13:38 of the third period, which would prove to be the game-winner.
The Lightning still faces an uphill battle as they must win the next two games to win the Stanley Cup.
But the Lightning has adopted a “one game at a time” mantra, and Pat Maroon talked about that mindset and what still needs to happen in this series.
“You’ve just got to work hard. There is a huge challenge in front of us. It’s an exciting challenge. How are you going to embrace it? That’s it. Just because we have home ice doesn’t mean anything, to be honest. We’ve still got to work.”
The Lightning has had the most challenging hill to climb of any team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. Every team the Bolts have played had over 50 wins in the regular season.
Toronto finished with 54 wins and 115 points and was the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning then took out the Florida Panthers, who won the President’s Trophy with 58 wins and 122 points.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bolts beat the New York Rangers, who finished fourth in the conference with 52 wins and 110 points.
The Lightning is now playing the Colorado Avalanche, the best team in the west. The Avs finished with the second-best record in the NHL with 56 wins and 119 points.
No other team has played more than two teams with 50 or more wins during the regular season.
Sunday night, the Lightning will be playing their 71st post-season game since September 2020. That is almost an entire season of games. But that is how good this Lightning team has been during this run.
The Lightning will need to put another game plan together, similar to the one that slowed down the Avalanche in game five.
Keep the puck outside, eliminating the speed of Colorado, and continue to play physical with a strong forecheck.
You know that Andrei Vasileviskiy will show up. He is at his best in elimination games. I expect another strong effort from Vasy in game six.
Get the Alka-Seltzer ready.
I like the Lightning to win another nail-biter 3-2 in front of the home fans to force a game seven in Denver on Tuesday night.