NHL Late goals send Lightning past Rangers in Game 5

NEW YORK — With overtime on the horizon, Mikhail Sergachev stepped into a wrist shot and watched the puck go through a traffic jam in front of the net. Then he watched the puck go off Ondrej Palat’s knee and into the net.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the fortuitous bounce meant they now get a chance to clinch another trip to the Stanley Cup final at home.

Palat’s tip-in snapped a tie with 1:50 remaining in regulation and the Lightning beat the New York Rangers 3-1 on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series three games to two and can secure its third straight trip to the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night at home. The Lightning are 6-1 at home in the postseason while the Rangers head into their sixth elimination game with a 2-7 road mark in the playoffs.

Palat scored the game-winner in the final two minutes of a game for the second time in the series. On Sunday, he netted the tiebreaking goal with 42 seconds remaining to help Tampa Bay register a 3-2 win after it allowed the first two goals.

“It’s defend until the end, and we’ve got some guys that can make some plays and you never know when it’s going to come,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “That’s some experience certainly.

“You never know when that moment is going to be in the game and don’t push for it, don’t go out of your way to try and make something happen. Let’s just stay patient and that’s three huge moments in the playoffs where we found a way at the end of the game.”

Tampa Bay’s other late game-winning goal of the postseason came when Ross Colton scored with 3.8 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the second round during a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers.

The Lightning became the second team in NHL history to score three game-winning goals during the final two minutes of regulation of a postseason, joining the 1995 New Jersey Devils.

“When your game is run by a clock, you got to play within that,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter. The game-winning goal can come in the first minute and it can come in the last minute. It doesn’t really matter when it comes.”

Palat scored the tiebreaker following a New York turnover.

Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba lost the puck in the left faceoff circle to Stamkos. Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman then moved the puck to Sergachev, who fired a long wrist shot from near the right point. The shot sailed through traffic, was touched by Palat and went over goalie Igor Shesterkin.

“We just had a good shift, it was two minutes left,” Palat said after scoring his 11th career postseason game-winning goal. “It hit my kneecap, a great shot by Sergie (Sergachev).”

Sergachev notched the tying goal in the second period, and Tampa Bay’s Brandon Hagel added an empty-netter with 59 seconds to go. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy continued his turnaround from the first two games by delivering a 24-save performance.

New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren scored midway through the second period and Shesterkin stopped 24 shots for the Rangers, who face their third three-games-to-two deficit of the postseason.

“We’ve been down 3-2 every series so far,” New York forward Andrew Copp said. “We have to have a high level of desperation. I think the confidence (from having done) it before is bigger and better. … I think there’s the belief in the room.”

After a scoreless opening period, the teams traded unassisted tallies in the second.

Lindgren opened the scoring for New York at 10:29. Sergachev tied it at 17:34, getting his first postseason goal since Game 5 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Eight seconds after New York’s Tyler Motte pressured Tampa Bay defenseman Zach Bogosian into a giveaway in the right corner, the puck caromed to Lindgren. Lindgren gained possession along the left boards and lifted a rising wrist shot from the left circle over Vasilevskiy’s right shoulder.

Tampa Bay tied it on its 16th shot of the game three seconds after New York’s Kevin Rooney committed a giveaway behind the net. Sergachev capitalized on the miscue by lifting a wrist shot from near center ice through traffic and past the left arm of Shesterkin, who was screened in front by two of his own teammates and Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry.

–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media

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