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Lightning Keep Season Alive with a Thrilling Game 5 Win

The Tampa Bay Lightning live to see another day by defeating the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 3-2 to force a Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning live to see another day. 

The Lightning kept their season alive on Friday night, winning a thrilling Game 5 over the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 3-2 to avoid elimination and head back home with the momentum in their favor. 

Game 5 followed a similar script to the prior contest. 

For a second straight game, the Lightning would set the tone after puck-drop, drawing two penalties in the first ten minutes of the game while testing Darcy Kuemper from a variety of different angles early on. Despite a spirited Avalanche pushback after surviving those power plays, the Lightning would eventually strike first, as Jan Ruutta came streaking down the boards off the rush and fired a perfectly-placed slapshot right under Kuemper's arm. 

After looking quite good for the majority of the opening frame, Ruuta's goal was one that Kuemper simply cannot let in -- especially with what was at stake. Still, the Avalanche managed to outshoot the Lightning by a 13-11 margin in the first period despite the deficit, offering hope for their ability to pull the game within reach after the break. 

And that's exactly what the Avalanche would do, as Valeri Nichushkin continued his unstoppable playoff run by bulldozing his way through the Tampa crease and banging a puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game at one goal apiece to send the Ball Arena crowd into absolute chaos. 

Tampa would roar right back though, as they tend to do, benefiting from some truly perplexing calls from the officials in order to earn another power play and spring Nikita Kucherov for his first goal of the Cup final to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead as the period would come to a close. 

But the action was far from over. 

The Lightning learned once again the most consistent truth of the series: You cannot stop Nichushkin, you can only hope to contain him. 

They did neither after the intermission, as Cale Makar would fire a long-range wrister from the point that appeared to deflect off Nichushkin's foot on the doorstep of Tampa's crease but was eventually credited to Makar, with the goal being made possible at all thanks to Nichushkin's relentless hunger for creating open space in the offensive zone. 

Once again, the game was tied. 

And, as always, Ondrej Palat broke it. 

After a massive Avalanche push hemmed the Lightning in their own zone for the better part of five minutes, Tampa responded by setting up shop with some lightning-quick (pun intended) puck movement in the Avs' end that would ultimately end in Palat firing a back-door one-timer that just squeaked over the line long enough to count, reclaiming the lead with less than six minutes left to play. 

A too-many-men call on the Avalanche would add some drama to the final stretch, but Colorado had no response. The Lightning hung on to take Game 5 and keep their season alive as the series shifts back to Florida. 

What a game. What a series. And we're not done yet. 

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