Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ondrej Palat plays hero again in Game 5 win over Colorado Avalanche

DENVER — When the Tampa Bay Lightning need a clutch goal in the third period of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ondrej Palat is the one to score it.

Palat scored the deciding goal at 1:38 p.m. Friday night of the third period, allowing the Lightning to avoid elimination with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, sending the series back to Tampa.

“He keeps doing it,” said winger Pat Maroon. “He’s a gamer. He plays right every night. He reaches those dirty areas and is rewarded. He’s a star in this league. He’s an elite player in this league. He shows up in big moments.”

The goal was his 11th of the playoffs. Palat has scored seven of those eleven goals in the third period. These included two game-winning goals against the New York Rangers, an empty-net goal that secured the win over the Florida Panthers, and his exploits in keeping Lightnings Stanley Cup three-goal chances alive in Denver.

At the score of 2-2, the Lightning flipped the puck around the avalanche zone. Palat waited for a pass, stick raised in the slot. Defenseman Victor Hedman passed the puck to him and Palat’s shot caught Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper and trickled past him for a 3-2 lead.

“I was just trying to open up and get a little lost. I saw Heddy and he sees me. So it was just an easy shot for me. I’m only trying once [it] and luckily it went in,” said Palat.

The goal sparked celebration in the Czech Republic, where Palat’s family had organized a Game 5 watch party.

“My parents just texted me that there were about 80 people there. It was 2 a.m. So it’s nice to feel all the support from home even if the game is quite late,” said Palat.

Palat is a popular player among his teammates. The winger joined the team in 2012-13 after playing for coach Jon Cooper with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.

“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 to be talked about in this series. But if you ask the other two players in his row, maybe they would talk about him the most,” Cooper said. “He’s just doing his job. And he’s being rewarded for his efforts. And everyone in this room knows how much Palat contributed to this organization and I feel like I have the same conversation about Ondrej Palat every year in the playoffs.”

Palat’s goal completed a surprise away win for the Lightning, who avoided elimination after a devastating overtime loss at home in Game 4. The Avalanche had a raucous crowd ready to see the Stanley Cup on home ice. Those fans left the team after seeing Tampa Bay start the game strong, forcing Colorado to catch up.

“We didn’t have a choice. It’s either do or die for us. This group did a great job focusing on the present and that was a very difficult place to win here. Just play in solid game and give yourself a chance. That’s what we did tonight. We won a game,” said captain Steven Stamkos.

Cooper said that seeing the series end in five games just didn’t feel right.

“It’s just a game,” he said. “We can’t hang our hats on anything that happened tonight other than the fact that everyone has to go home, everyone has to get back on a plane. But I think if you look at this series, was it meant for six or seven? Damn right? There are two damn good hockey teams here. We look forward to seeing you in two nights.”

https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/34146027/tampa-bay-lightning-ondrej-palat-plays-hero-again-game-5-win-colorado-avalanche Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ondrej Palat plays hero again in Game 5 win over Colorado Avalanche

Emma Bowman

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