The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday.
Since losing the first two games of the series, the Lightning have won three games in a row, and they now hold a 3-2 series lead.
After taking a 3-1 lead Saturday, the Lightning held on against a late surge from Washington. The Caps could not net the equalizer on the heels of Alex Ovechkin scoring with less than two minutes left in the game to make it 3-2.
Tampa set the tone from the start with a goal on its first shift of the game. Cedric Paquette scored 19 seconds in off a one-handed pass from Ryan Callahan, as seen in the following video courtesy of NHL on NBC:
The goal was Paquette's first of the playoffs, and it marked the quickest goal in a home playoff game for the Lightning in team history, per Sportsnet Stats:
The Bolts continued to apply pressure throughout the first half of the opening period, and they broke through again to take a 2-0 lead just over nine minutes into the frame.
Ondrej Palat took passes from Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos before beating Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with a wrist shot:
The goal wasn't without controversy, though, as Stamkos appeared to trip Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov to set up the play.
JJ Regan of NBC Sports Washington suggested that the officials erred by not calling a penalty on Stamkos:
Following Palat's sixth goal of the playoffs, the momentum was firmly on Tampa Bay's side.
That carried over to the crowd, which taunted Holtby in an effort to get inside the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner's head, according to Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times:
The Lightning carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, and their fourth line struck once again early in the second.
After tallying an assist on the first goal, Callahan scored his second goal of the playoffs just 33 seconds into the second frame:
On the heels of defenseman Anton Stralman driving to the net, the puck deflected off Callahan's body and found the back of the net.
Washington finally managed to get on the board just under four minutes later when Evgeny Kuznetsov deflected a Matt Niskanen slap shot past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for his 11th goal of the postseason:
The teams went scoreless for the rest of the second period and for most of the third period until Ovechkin scored his 11th goal of the playoffs from John Carlson and Lars Eller with just 1:36 left in regulation.
Washington pressured Tampa Bay with the goalie pulled and had several chances to tie it, but Vasilevskiy turned the attempts aside to preserve the victory.
The Lightning are now one win away from reaching their second Stanley Cup Final in the past four seasons, while the Caps are still hoping to win the next two games and make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998.
Washington will host Tampa Bay on Monday in a win-or-go-home scenario in Game 6.