The Stanley Cup has left the building.
The Colorado Avalanche looked to close it out against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 but faced a difficult challenge all night. Jan Rutta scored early for the Lightning, forcing the Avalanche to play catch-up. Valeri Nichushkin managed to do just that in the second period, but Nikita Kucherov pulled the Lightning ahead once more with a power play goal.
Though Andrei Vasilevskiy played well all night, another tying goal slipped by him, credited to Cale Makar. Ondrej Palat ended up putting the Lightning ahead for the final time late in the third period, and they withstood a final barrage from the Avalanche to send the series back to Tampa Bay.
It wouldn't be the first time a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final, but it's still an uphill battle for the Lightning. Here's how they kept their championship hopes alive in Game 5.
The Stanley Cup will remain in its case for a couple more days, at least.
Colorado had its chances to close out the Lightning in Game 5 but after another stellar performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning's edge in the special teams battle, the series is headed back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday.
It wasn't that the Lightning wanted it more than the Avalanche. Colorado overcame two deficits to keep up its hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup at home. But the Avalanche didn't seem to fully come alive until the third period, just like in Game 4. They'll have a chance to remedy that Sunday in Game 6. Colorado should be desperate not to let Tampa Bay too far back into the series. Not when Vasilevskiy is playing so well and the Lightning's pedigree is starting to show in a big way. -- Kristen Shilton
Resting in the case
We'll have to wait until Sunday to see if the Avalanche will hoist the Stanley Cup.
In my case I shall stay.— The Stanley Cup (@StanleyCup) June 25, 2022
Tampa's not done
Ondrej Palat isn't ready to give up just yet, as he silenced the Colorado crowd with a go-ahead goal late in the third.
ONDREJ FREAKIN' PALAT pic.twitter.com/wmdL8tirfg— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 25, 2022
Avs tie it up
A horrible break for the Lightning, as one sneaks by Vasilevskiy to tie the game 2-2. Cale Makar is the one credited with the goal.
Avalanche second period takeaways
Cale Makar couldn't help but look skyward.
Ondrej Palat had just skated over his stick and fallen to the ice, which was called as a tripping penalty on Makar. The sides were already playing 4-on-4 after JT Compher was assessed a late holding the stick penalty and after Alex Killorn had already been called for a hold.
Nikita Kucherov scored on the ensuing Lightning power play, which was only Tampa Bay's second goal with the man advantage in the Cup Final.
Given Makar is one of Colorado's top penalty killers it wasn't a totally shocking development.
It was one of a couple no-calls that did not favor Colorado in the second. Pat Maroon wasn't penalized for dropping Nathan MacKinnon to the ice and a Tampa Bay trip went uncalled in front of the official.
Then there was no delay of game call when Nick Paul shot the puck out of play on a shorthanded clearing attempt.
The margin for error in the game so far is wafer thin at even-strength, so the special teams battle is -- and will continue to be -- prominent. -- Kristen Shilton
Lightning second period takeaways
No-touch icing has its benefits, like keeping players from catastrophic collisions into the end boards. It also has its drawbacks, as the linesman makes a judgment call on which player theoretically would touch the puck first during a chase between opponents. The Lightning got burned by the latter in the second period, as it certainly appeared that Nick Paul had position to touch the puck but the linesman whistled icing. That led to a faceoff on the other end of the ice, which then led to Valeri Nichushkin's game-tying goal.
But the officials taketh away and they giveth. With the teams playing 4-on-4 after matching holding penalties, Cale Makar was called for a rather specious tripping penalty to set up a 4-on-3 power play. If the Lightning were ever going to score on the man advantage, it was going to be here, and Nikita Kucherov lasered his eighth of the playoffs into the net at 8:10. It was just the second power-play goal for the Lightning in 17 attempts this series.
The icing aside, the Lightning have gotten the benefit of the officiating in Game 5. Which conspiracy theory wins out: that the NHL "wants" a Game 6 or that Jon Cooper's protest over that missed too many men on the ice penalty at the end of Game 4 influenced the officiating in Game 5?
In any case, the Lightning are 20 minutes away from keeping the three-peat alive. -- Greg Wyshynski
Tampa strikes back
The Lightning do not want this series to end tonight, with Nikita Kucherov giving Tampa Bay the lead again with a power-play goal.
Sneaky, sneaky 🤫 pic.twitter.com/Rvw3eNYjHd— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 25, 2022
All tied up
A little confusion in front of the Lightning's goal led to an Avalanche score, this time by Valeri Nichushkin.
Friends watch hockey together
Lightning first period takeaways
The Lightning identified the first 10 minutes of Game 5 as being absolutely pivotal.
"They feed off that first 5-10 minutes and you really have to be engaged in your game. Because then they start getting momentum," said coach Jon Cooper.
The good news for the Lightning was that, unlike their first two games in Denver, they were not down by multiple goals by the midway mark of the opening period. The bad news is that they spent 40% of those minutes on the power play and came away with nothing to show for it, getting just two shots on goal.
The best news: They ended up scoring the first goal at 15:21 of the first period, as Jan Rutta beat Darcy Kuemper cleanly. Besides a good first 10 minutes, the Lightning also talked about how getting a lead would allow them to get their game and have Colorado chase it a little bit. Given Colorado's stamina advantages at this point in the postseason, that's essential. -- Greg Wyshynski
Avalanche first period takeaways
Colorado's special teams came up big in the first period.
Tampa Bay drew two penalties in the opening 10 minutes, forcing the Avalanche's aggressive penalty kill to come up with quick answers. Colorado has been excellent while shorthanded all series and that continued as the Lightning dropped to 1-for-17 with the extra man in this Cup Final.
The Avalanche's lone power play attempt of the frame generated some great looks on Andrei Vasilevskiy but failed to beat the Big Cat.
While no one drew blood on power plays, a special teams-heavy frame likely wasn't the start anyone wanted to a potential Stanley Cup-clinching game. There were obvious nerves on both sides with poor passing and bad shot attempts. A few times the Avalanche were caught being too cute with the puck, at 5-on-5 and on the power play, which is a dangerous game to play against the opportunistic Lightning.
In this series, the first period has often been a feeling-out process before the back-and-forth really begins. The pace already picked up significantly in the final two minutes. Let's see if that continues into the second. -- Kristen Shilton
Another early lead for Tampa
A bit of a surprise goal from the Lightning, as Jan Rutta snuck one by Darcy Kuemper's defenses.
*GASP* 🤭 pic.twitter.com/BCa9iTKKdg— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 25, 2022
SLAPSHOT SZN 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WjZfBCCE6v— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 25, 2022
Bringing your fans with you
Tampa Bay had a very special cheering section for them inside a raucous Ball Arena.
The Lightning flew their full-time staff to Denver and they're a cheering section in section 322. pic.twitter.com/t6lUr9be6Q— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 25, 2022
The Avalanche went with some stylish looks in front of neon lighting for their walk to the arena, while the Lightning looked bright and optimistic despite their deficit.
The Cup is rested and ready
I'll be in the building on Friday.— The Stanley Cup (@StanleyCup) June 23, 2022
Good morning. pic.twitter.com/n85Tc0IpCy— The Stanley Cup (@StanleyCup) June 24, 2022