NHL Stanley Cup Final 2022: Top Comments Following Lightning vs. Avalanche Game 5

Jake RillJune 25, 2022

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat, left, celebrates his go-ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche with center Steven Stamkos during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Tampa Bay Lightning won't be going down without a fight. They are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions after all.

On Friday night, the Lightning denied the Colorado Avalanche of capturing the Cup, notching a 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena in Denver. Now, the series will return to Tampa for a Game 6 matchup on Sunday.

"The mental fortitude you have to have to not buckle in the environment we were just in, to play the type of game we did, there's a reason [the players have] got a couple rings on their fingers," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, per NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika.

Colorado had all the momentum entering Friday. Not only had it won Games 1 and 2 on its home ice, but it pulled out a 3-2 win in overtime on the road in Wednesday's Game 4. The Avs could have won their first Cup since 2001 on Friday.

Instead, Tampa Bay extended the series. Sure, the Avalanche remain in control, as they still have a 3-2 advantage. But if the Lightning win Game 6 on their home ice—where they had won eight straight contests prior to their Game 4 loss—they can force a winner-take-all Game 7, which would take place Tuesday in Denver.

"I think when you look at this series, was it meant to go six or seven? Damn right it was," Cooper said, per Cotsonika. "It's two damn good hockey teams here."

Colorado will be hoping to keep it from going the full seven. But when Tampa Bay gets momentum, it can be difficult to stop.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning overcame an 0-2 deficit by winning four straight games to move on. Could this be the beginning of a similar run that will lead the team to a third consecutive Cup victory?

It didn't seem like Avalanche players were surprised that they didn't just cruise to the Stanley Cup themselves. They know they're facing a tough opponent.

“It’s not supposed to be easy, and it’s not going to be easy,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said, per Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press.

“It’s the toughest challenge in sports to knock a team out,” Avs defenseman Cale Makar said, per Stapleton. “So, for us, it’s just refocusing and moving on. We have another great opportunity in Tampa.”

This is the same position that Colorado was in during the second round. It lost Game 5 to the St. Louis Blues at home, and it had a 3-2 lead going into Game 6. Even though the Avalanche were in a hostile environment, they pulled out a 3-2 victory in St. Louis to end the series.

So it's not a given that the Stanley Cup Final will be going to a Game 7. The Lightning may be in a good position to make it happen, considering they're playing at home coming off a win. But they still have to go out and beat the Avs, which is never an easy task.