Lightning stay alive on Palat’s winner

by Gary Shelton on June 25, 2022

in general

Palat scored another game-winner./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The best part about being down to your last heartbeat is this: Sometimes, that heart belongs to Ondrej Palat.

One more time, the Tampa Bay Lightning fought off elimination. One more time, they skated into an opposing ice rink and won. One more time, they wore down a skilled, fleet team to keep their hockey season going.

That's the thing about the Lighting. You can schedule their funeral if you want. But they're going to make it darned hard for you to close the casket on them.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Kucherov scored a goal for Bolts../TIM WIRT

The Lightning fought back again Friday night. Of course they did. Facing elimination, they won a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. They now trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven series with the next game coming Sunday night in Tampa.

Ondrej Palat, the most clutch player no one seems to be aware of, scored another game-winning goal for the Bots with 6:22 left to play. It was Palat's 12th game-winning goal of his career, and his 11th goal of these playoffs. Not bad for a guy who talks about luck every time the puck goes into the net.

"All I can say about Palat is that he plays with some of the best players in the world every year and he’s always the third guy talked about on his line," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "But if you ask the other two guys on his line, they would talk about him maybe the most.  He gets rewarded for it because of his efforts. Everyone in that room knows how much Palat has Brough to this organization."

The Lightning still trails in the series, but you can see a possible comeback from here. If they can win their next game at home, they would force a Game Seven.

"I don’t know what else I can say about the guys," Cooper said. "You’re down in the series, the Cup is in the building, you’re in a great environment for the home team. How do you show gamesmanship? You do everything they just did."

Vasilevskiy had 35 saves./TIM WIRT

For four of the first five games of the series, the Avs had been faster, more relentless. But on Friday night, the team took leads of 1-0 and 2-1. They had 37 shots. Clearly, it was a desperate team.

Now they have to do it again. And again.

"We didn’t have a choice," said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. "This was do or die for us. Sometimes, you get caught looking ahead a little bit. We focused on the present to come in here a very tough  place to win and give ourselves a chance. That’s what we did. We won one game. As good as it feels sto extend the series, we realize how hard we had to work to get that tonight. We’re going to have to replicate that at home."

For Lightning fans still quibbling about the too-many-men-on-the-ice debate from the end of Game Five, there is this. With 2:43 to play, Colorado was called for having too many men on the ice, which kept them from pulling their goalie until the final 43 seconds.

"That shouldn't be a story," Cooper said.

Cooper would much rather you talk about Palat, an afterthought when he came into the league who has become a dependable player for the Lightning.

“Obviously. he’s scored a lot of big goals in his time in the playoffs," Stamkos said. "It’s pretty remarkable. I just thought saw a stat where he has like 12 game-winning goals. We always joke with Pally that he just just finds a way. Sneaky Pete. He found a way to put one in there."

Said Nikita Kucherov: “He likes those big-time moments. He plays extremely well under pressure. You can see it."

The Bolts and Avs will play at 8 p.m. Sunday night at Amalie Arena.

Rutta had his first goal of the playoffs./TIM WIRT

Previous post:

Next post: