DENVER, Colo. — The Tampa Bay Lightning took to the ice Friday night with a simple job in front of them, win...or go home. And they did just that with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche to send the series back to Amalie Arena on Sunday.
Before the game, the Lightning announced they would be without center Brayden Point again. He had missed most of the Stanley Cup Final, leaving a big hole in the lines for Tampa Bay.
What Tampa Bay fans knew was the team had to play better than the bad effort they showed in the overtime of Game 4. One player all eyes were on was Nikita Kucherov, who had been pretty much invisible throughout the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay would also need the power play unit to make some noise while the penalty kill unit needed to finally shut down the Avalanche.
The puck dropped in the first period just after 8:15 eastern as the Lightning's quest for a three-peat held on by a thread.
GALLERY: STANLEY CUP FINAL - GAME 5
Three minutes into the first period, Tampa's power play unit took the ice after a high-sticking penalty against the Avs. Tampa's power play unit was 1-14 heading into Game 5 against the Avs and this power play ended up no different with the Lightning unable to do anything.
As the first period hit a TV timeout just over six minutes in, Tampa had weathered the early storm from Colorado. Still, the Lightning needed a lot more than that to keep the series going.
Seven minutes into the first period, the Lightning went on the power play again after the Avs' Nazem Kadri was hit with a slashing penalty. Surprising no one who has watched the Final, the second power play ended with no goal from Tampa Bay.
Colorado then got a delayed penalty against the Lightning sending their lethal power play onto the ice with 11 minutes to go in the first period. The Lightning penalty kill unit kept Colorado off the board as both teams went back to even strength.
Then with four and half minutes to go in the quarter, Jan Mutta hit a slapshot right past Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The 95 mph shot was almost invisible as it zoomed into the net.
The Avalanche pounded away at Lighting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy as the clock wound down on the first period, but the Big Cat stood strong stopping every shot he faced to give Tampa a 1-0 lead to end the first period.
Both teams went back and forth on the ice through the first five minutes of the second period before the Avalanche punched a rebound past the Big Cat to tie the game at 1-1.
Not two minutes later, both teams were hit with holding penalties to make it 4-on-4 action with 13:31 left in the second period. Then Colorado defenseman Cade Makar was hit with a tripping penalty to give the Lightning a 4-3 advantage on the ice.
On the power play, Tampa was 1-16 in the Stanley Cup Final heading into the power play. But this time, Nikita Kucherov finally ended the long drought with a one-timer right past Kuemper to give the Lightning the lead again.
The Lightning cash in on the power play to take the lead ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/2ZyL6Jnx6M— ESPN (@espn) June 25, 2022
As both teams fought for an advantage in the second period, Colorado was staying aggressive against the Big Cat, but he continued to stonewall shots as the clock ticked down under six minutes to go in the period.
Then with a little less than 3:43 to go in the second period, Tampa was hit with a two-minute penalty for high-sticking. Colorado's power play unit took the ice trying to keep its streak alive of a goal in every game of the series.
But it wasn't to be as Tampa's Penalty Kill unit was able to turn away the Avalanche power play. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos came close to getting the team's third goal, but it wasn't to be.
The horn sounded to end the second period with Tampa Bay again on top, 2-1.
When the teams returned to the ice just for the third period, Colorado was facing tall odds to come back. Teams that were facing elimination and leading after two periods in the Stanley Cup Final were 45-7 all time.
But the Avalanche wasted no time trying to change that history as Valeri Nikchuskin snuck a shot by Vasilevskiy to tie the game at 2.
In the early minutes of the third period, the game quickly started to resemble the overtime period from Game 4 with Tampa Bay on their heels. This time though, the crowd was on its collective feet and chanting "We want the cup," trying to will the Avs to a go-ahead goal.
But Tampa Bay wasn't ready to go quietly into the night as Ondrej Palat got it past Kuemper to make the score 3-2 with 6:22 left in the game.
The teams had a faceoff with 3:33 to go in the game as Colorado began to fight with everything it had to get the game tied again.
Then with 2:38 to go in the final period, Colorado was assessed an ironic "too many men on the ice" for Colorado. The penalty put the Lightning on the power play until nearly the end of the game.
Tampa's power play unit finally got on the board in the game and one more would put the game out of reach for the Lightning. The clock wound below two minutes and Tampa took a timeout to strategize the final push.
Colorado was able to fend off the power play as both teams went to full strength and the Avs pulled their goalie to get an extra man advantage.
Tampa would not be denied and the final horn sounded to send the series back to Amalie Arena for a Game 6 on Sunday.