Paquette sparks quick-start Lightning in Game 5

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It took the Tampa Bay Lightning all of 19 seconds to get themselves into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals.

Yes, the Lightning scored on their first shot on goal as Cedric Paquette took advantage of a neutral-zone giveaway and then some questionable defending by the Capitals in response (and a nifty play by Ryan Callahan).

Tampa has been plagued by slow starts in this series, so getting a goal within the first thirty seconds of the game couldn’t have been scripted much better.

Ondrej Palat scored later in the period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Both of Tampa’s goals also came 5-on-5, which hasn’t exactly been their strong suit in the Eastern final.

Neither team has won at home in this series, but Tampa took two big steps in the right direction in Game 5.

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Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals’ Burakovsky will be Game 5 scratch
Lightning survive barrage to even series with Capitals
• Baseball team to wear Washington Capitals-inspired jerseys (Photos)
Capitals confident in ability to continue road advantage vs. Lightning
Lightning power play, Capitals penalty kill will make or break series

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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning bounce Bruins from playoffs in five games

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will play for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning earned a 3-1 decision in Game 5 on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Bruins, sending the Bruins into hibernation mode after taking the series 4-1.

The series will be largely defined by what the line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson were able to accomplish after Tampa’s top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller took a back seat.

Point scored his third goal of the series to erase David Krejci‘s first-period tally, slotting home after making a patient play around Tuukka Rask.

Point, who finished with seven points in the series, helped the Lightning rebound from their 6-2 Game 1 defeat with a four-point night, a performance that one could argue was a turning point in the series. The Lightning cruised from there, allowing eight goals during their four-game winning streak.

Point’s time-on-ice jumped by over two minutes from Game 1 to Game 5, and it was well-deserved.

Contributions from Tampa’s top line weren’t as relevant as they were against the New Jersey Devils. Kucherov had 10 points in that series but just two points in the second round. Stamkos had a pivotal goal in Game 4 to force overtime, but had only an empty-netter otherwise.

Miller made his presence felt in Game 5, first by knocking David Backes out of the game with a crushing hit in the second period, and then minutes later, offering up the go-ahead goal that stood as the game-winner.

Boston, meanwhile, couldn’t find much in the way of scoring outside of Game 1.

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined four just four goals over the final four games of the series and secondary scoring from the Bruins was virtually non-existent, ultimately spelling the end to Boston’s season.

The Lightning now waits for the winner between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington leads the series 3-2 after a 6-3 win on Saturday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Lightning take lead, Jones’ shutout evens series

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Wednesday’s results

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Bostons Bruins 1 (Tampa leads series 2-1): Ondrej Palat scored twice in 1:32 early on in the first period and the Lightning shut down the Bruins top line outside of a goal from Patrice Bergeron. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves in the win. The Bruins need to start scoring, with only three goals in their past two games after scoring six in Game 1. Tuukka Rask has allowed eight goals in his past two starts.

San Jose Sharks 4, Vegas Golden Knights 0 (Series tied 2-2): Martin Jone made 34 saves and the Sharks shut down William Karlsson and the rest of the Vegas Golden Knights to even the best-of-7 series 2-2. Even Marc-Andre Fleury‘s heroics throughout the playoffs were no match for the lack of run support.

Three stars

Ondrej Palat, Lightning: Two goals and the game-winner for the Lightning. Palat now has three goals in his past two games and is providing the Lightning secondary scoring on a line with Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point. It was his second game-winner in as many games.

Martin Jones, Sharks: Jones made 34 saves for his sixth career playoff shutout, including stopping seven off the stick of James Neal and another five from Karlsson.

Victor Hedman, Lightning: Hedman had two assists in the game and fire four shots on Rask while playing a series-high 26:18 on Wednesday. And he did all this while having the unenviable spot trying to shut down Boston’s top line.

Highlights

Marcus Sorensen‘s goal was a special effort:

Saucy goal:

Factoids

Thursday’s schedule

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN) — Capitals lead series 2-1

Nashville Predators vs. Winnipeg Jets, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) — Jets lead series 2-1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Palat, Lightning strike down Bruins to take 2-1 series lead

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In Game 2, Brayden Point was the hero and on Wednesday night as the best-of-7 series shifted to Boston, it was Ondrej Palat who sparked the Tampa Bay Lightning to victory.

Notice anything strange here?

If you guessed the answer was a question such as, ‘Where is Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller?’ then you’d be on the right track.

The line has a single goal so far in the series (Stamkos scored into the empty net to make Wednesday’s score a 4-1 final), yet the Lightning has rallied since a 6-2 loss in Game 1.

The reason? Secondary scoring, and a whole Palat of it.

It was Palat who scored twice in 1:32 early in the first period on Wednesday, his second and third goal in his past two games. Palat is up to four goals and eight points in eight games in the playoffs.

Both goals were all the Lightning needed as they kept the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand at bay (Bergeron scored the lone goal for the Bruins on the night).

The line of Point, Palat and Tyler Johnson has sizzled over the past two games, combining for 10 points as a unit during that time.

Tampa’s second line has picked up the slack with the Bruins paying a lot of attention to Stamkos and Co. It hasn’t been a winning formula as of late, however.

Andrei Vasilevskiy put in another solid performance, turning aside 28-of-29 for the win.

Both teams lock horns again on Friday for Game 4. For the Bruins, a victory will be a must as teams that go up 3-1 in a series have an 89 percent chance of moving on, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

For Boston, avoiding being sent to the brink of eliminations means getting their top line up and running again (they had 11 points combined in Game 1) or finding some scoring from literally anyone else.

Outside of Game 1, the Bruins have been steadily misfiring and need to curb it quickly before the Atlantic Division champs make that impossible.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Brayden Point has redemption game as Lightning even series with Bruins

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Brayden Point wasn’t happy with his performance in Game 1.

You’d have a tough time arguing against the sophomore’s assessment. He finished with a minus-5 in a 6-2 loss, and despite having decent possession numbers in the game (52.94% CF%) against the top line of the Boston Bruins, there was no denying that Point and the rest of his line with Ondrej Palat (minus-4) and Tyler Johnson (minus-3) struggled mightily in the blowout.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper tried to soften the blow following the game, but flawed stat or not, it never looks good when it’s that high.

Fast forward two days, then, and the redemption for Point and Co. must have tasted so sweet.

Point’s line combined for seven points in a 4-2 win against the Bruins to even the best-of-7 series 1-1 and Point was the focal point of the offensive surge, grabbing a goal and three assists for the first four-point night of his young NHL career.

Palat chipped in with a goal and an assist and Johnson added the line’s third marker.

The Bruins had little luck in this game.

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Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were clinical in Game 1, combining for 11 points as they cruised to victory.

The Lightning had answers 48 hours later, limiting Boston’s best line to four assists on the team’s two goals.

Torey Krug‘s third of the postseason in the third period to pull Boston to 3-2 kept things interesting momentarily, but Point put his final touch on the game with an empty-net goal with 24 seconds left, ensuring the split as the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck