Palat’s late goal gets a win for Lightning

by Gary Shelton on June 6, 2022

in general

Palat scored game winner for Bolts./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

On a team of stars, there are other lights that usually shine brighter in the sky than Ondrej Palat's.

There is the dazzling Nikita Kucherov, and the reliable Steven Stamkos. There is the acrobatic Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the sturdy Victor Hedman. There is Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh.

Ah, but when the Bolts are in the playoffs, and when the game is on the line, something clicks inside of Palat. Turn up the game, and you can turn up the brightness of his play.


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Kucherov figured in all three Lightning goals./TIM WIRT

Palat scored with 40.6 seconds to play Sunday afternoon, lifting the Bolts to a 3-2, potential series-turning win over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

It was the 10th playoff winning goal for Palat, the most in the history of the franchise (breaking the old record of Tyler Johnson), and it gives the Bolts a chance to even the series at 2-2 on Tuesday night.

"We’ve seen this for years.," Lightning coach Joh Cooper said. "He’s a quiet kid. He doesn’t say anything. All he does is give you everything he has on every shift. He’s got that ability to play that blue-collar game with white-collar players. That’s a great trait to have. He’s usually the third guy talked about on the lines he plays on, but he comes through with statistics."

With time running out, Palat took a pass from Kuchreov (who had a goal and two assists), and buried it. It allowed the Bolts to come back from a 2-0 deficit.

"Those are the stats of a player who elevates his game at the time the team needs him the most," said Steven Stamkos, who also had a goal. "For the guys who know Pallie and who have been here as long as I have, it’snot surprising to see him come up in those moments. Pallie is a guy who -- no matter what situation or what stage -- he’s Mr. Reliable."

Still, Palat doesn’t get nearly the press of some of his teammates. Still, he knows when his team needs him to be a star.

"Are you not calling him a star?" said Pat Maroon. "Have you looked at his stats. I’d call him a star in my eyes. He’s a big-time player who steps up in big time moments."

Palat wasn't the only star for the Bolts. Kucherov was dynamic. Stamkos scored the game-tiler. The penalty kills (thanks to a Ranger penalty) killed off a four-minute minor late in the game. Goalie Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots. Then then there was Palat, sliding the puck past Rangers' goalie Igor Shesterkin.

"We’ve been in spots like this," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "The big thing for us is we felt we had a recipe, we just had to stick to it. There have been times in this series when we tried to manufacture things that weren’t there that put us on our heels. No matter what you say, we weren’t in sync."

Stamkos also had praise for Kucherov.

“I think if you look at the first couple of shifts of the game, you knew Kuch was on his game," Stamkos said. "It was a matter of when he was going to get on the scoresheet. I thought Kuch was our most dynamic player out there."

The Bolts are still behind two games to one in the series, but they have a chance to even things up on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.

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