The Tampa Bay Lightning moved one win away from their third straight Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay used three unanswered goals to get past the New York Rangers inside Madison Square Garden for its third straight win in the Eastern Conference Final.
As The Athletic's Joe Smith put it, "these guys just refuse to die."
The two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion stared down a two-game deficit and a two-goal trailing margin in Game 3 before it flipped the series around.
The Lightning scored three straight goals to capture Game 3, won Game 4 at home by a 4-1 score and then netted a late game-winning tally in Game 5 to take over the series.
The odds overwhelmingly favor the Lightning to close out the series either in Game 6 on home ice or in Game 7 back at MSG.
Sportsnet's Luke Fox pointed out the edge that Game 5 winners in a tied series have had in NHL history: "Home ice will be in Tampa’s favour. Ditto the math. Seventy-nine per cent of teams that win Game 5 of a tied series go on to advance."
Ondrej Palat was Tampa Bay's hero in Game 5. He deflected a Mikhail Sergachev shot past Igor Shesterkin with 110 seconds left in the contest.
Palat made history with his game-winning goal. He became the first player in NHL history to record multiple game-winners in the final two minutes in a single playoff year, per NHL Public Relations.
Palat has been a scoring machine for the Lightning in the conference final round over the last few years.
In fact, what Palat has done in front of the net is close to record-breaking. He is second behind Joe Sakic for the most conference final goals since 1990, per Hockey Reference.
Palat is the leading scorer in the series with four goals. Mika Zibanejad, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos all have three tallies.
New York took the Game 5 lead through Ryan Lindgren, who netted the team's second even-strength goal since the opening period of Game 2, as ESPN's Greg Wyshynski pointed out:
"The Rangers' goal was just their second even-strength goal since the first period of Game 2 in the series. Their power play, which ranks first in the playoffs and clicks at a 30 percent conversion rate at home, was limited to one opportunity in Game 5—a Lightning bench minor for too many men on the ice in the second period that was the result of Shesterkin shooting the puck toward the Bolts during a change. The Rangers did not score on their lone power play."
Tampa Bay's defense flipped the complexion of the series. The Lightning conceded once in each of the last two games and allowed two tallies in Game 3.
All of this is being done without one of Tampa Bay's best players, Brayden Point, which makes the accomplishment that more impressive, as The Athletic's Joe Smith noted.
The Lightning have a chance to close out the Eastern Conference Final at home on Saturday. The Colorado Avalanche await either the Lightning or Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.