Lightning’s Ondrej Palat buries Avalanche in Game 5 with late goal

A frenzied crowd inside Ball Arena was roaring late in Game 5 when all the home team’s momentum was sucked out of the building in one swift shot.

Lightning forward Ondrej Palat sent the series back to Tampa Bay with 6:22 left in regulation. The 31-year-old forward buried a feed from teammate Victor Hedman past Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory.

Palat, a native of Czechoslovakia, said the moment was celebrated by friends and family from thousands of miles away at a watch party in his hometown.

“My parents just texted me there was like 80 people there,” Palat said. “It was two in the morning, so it’s nice to feel the support from back home even when the game is pretty late. It feels great.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Palat ruined Colorado’s prime opportunity to clinch the Stanley Cup in Game 5. Palat now has 12 career game-winning goals in the NHL postseason. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said the team has given a nickname to Palat — “Sneaky P” — as respect for his game-changing abilities.

“That guy does everything for our team,” Lightning teammate Corey Perry said. “He’s out there at the end of the game. He’s on the power play. He’s a peak penalty killer when we need him. Blocking shots. He’s a warrior. He found a little soft spot tonight and found a way to put another one in. … That’s all we can ask. Just guys doing different things each and every night.”

Palat is a former seventh-round NHL draft pick (2011) who kept Tampa Bay’s three-peat dreams alive with one big shot against the Avalanche.

“He just does his job and gets rewarded for it because of his effort,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

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