11 p.m. ET
Well, as Patrick Ewing of the Knicks so famously said several times, “We’ll see you Sunday.”
We are heading back to Tampa for a Game 6, something that seemed improbable after the Avalanche won Game 4 in Tampa on Wednesday.
But the Lightning found a way for a 3-2 win. They are the 2-time Cup champs for a reason, and they showed it tonight.
Any Avalanche comeback attempt was thwarted when they were whistled for – wait for it – too many men on the ice with 2:33 left in the game. In case you were living under a rock the past few days, the Lightning thought the Avalanche game-winning goal in Game 4 should not have counted because they said they had too many men on the ice.
Now the drama really builds. If the Avalanche can’t win in Game 6, it’s back here on Tuesday for a winner-take-all Game 7 where anything can happen.
Suddenly, the heat is on the Avalanche to get it done in what I’m sure will be a wild Amalie Arena.
Thanks for reading.
10:40 p.m. ET
The Lightning have taken the lead with 6:22 left on an absolute rocket from Ondrej Palat right in front of the net.
The Lightning staffers are going bonkers and can sense a Game 6 on Sunday.
I’ve never seen so many people happy to be possibly working on a Sunday.
As for some housekeeping, the Avalanche second goal is now being credited to Cale Makar, so there’s that. You have to figure if the Avs win, he could be the Conn Smythe.
But that is much more in question now with the Lightning ahead.
Video: TBL@COL, Gm5: Palat gives Lightning 3-2 lead in 3rd
10:33 p.m. ET
The Avs have plenty of jump after Nichushkin’s goal tied the game at 2-2 and the crowd is going at full tilt.
This could be the loudest rendition of “All the Small Things” by Blink-182 if we are still tied or the Avs have the lead at that point.
The Avs fans are again making it very much clear they want the Cup.
It’s really starting to feel like Game 4, where the Avs got stronger as the game went on and imposed their will on the Lightning.
It’s also starting to feel like next goal wins. Mikhail Sergachev also did it too, hitting the crossbar on a shot.
This is by far the most entertaining game of the Final and no wonder, there is so much at stake.
It’s bonkers in here, and now “Panama” by Van Halen is playing.
10:25 p.m. ET
And we are tied here at 2-2 and this place is going absolutely nuts.
The goal, from Valeri Nichushkin, came at 2:31 into the third period and just seconds after the Ball Arena DJ played “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss. Not sure if you’ve heard but NHL.com Managing Editor Brian Compton loves Kiss almost as much as he loves the McRib.
Anyway, it’s 2-2 and the fans can taste the Cup again. It’s a huge goal for Avs and this place is alive.
Speaking of Detroit, I hear the Avs-Red Wings 30 for 30 that’s coming to ESPN on Sunday is awesome. And how could it not be?
Video: TBL@COL, Gm5: Makar scores tying goal from circle
10:15 p.m. ET
The third period is about to start, so buckle up.
We are 20 minutes of regulation, and maybe some overtime, from a new Stanley Cup champion being crowned or the two-time champs showing they are not finished yet and forcing a Game 6 back at their rink on Sunday.
Speaking of the Lightning, I can confirm the group in front of us are the Lightning staffers the team flew to Denver for Game 5. There are 200 of them here and they are flying back to Tampa tonight as soon as the game is over.
The game will be over around 9 p.m. local time, so you figure they will back in Tampa around 2 a.m.
Will they be partying or going home for the offseason? We’ll see.
10 p.m. ET
The Lightning still lead 2-1 after two periods.
The Avalanche had a chance to tie the game late in the second period but failed again on the power play and are now 0-for-2 with the man-advantage in the game.
The Avalanche got the power player when Ross Colton of the Lightning got whistled for high-sticking on Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor with 3:43 to go in the second.
Cale Makar almost scored on a Connor McDavid-esque move, skating through about three Lightning players, but he flipped his shot over the bar and into the net.
The Lightning are doing what they do best – locking things down. If you watched you the final few games of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, you know what I mean. They are blocking shots, clogging up the passing lanes, and when the Avs get a shot through, Andrei Vasilevskiy is there to stop it.
As for the Lightning fans/staffers in front of us, they are certainly feeling there is going to be a Game 6 Sunday and maybe a Game 7 back here on Tuesday. One of them just shouted, “Who wants to work more than 40 hours next week?”
9:45 p.m. ET
We have about six minutes left in the second period and the Lightning are hanging on to a 2-1 lead thanks to a power-play goal from Nikita Kucherov.
Nathan MacKinnon is trying to make his presence felt as he is going hard after the puck and even had a minor scrum at center ice with Pat Maroon.
The fans are not happy that a penalty wasn’t called on Maroon who seemed to put MacKinnon in a headlock and tossed him to the ice.
Maroon, in case you hadn’t heard by now, was on the Cup three years in a row and is going for No. 4.
You know he’s not giving that thing up too easy.
The Lightning are now 2-for-17 on the power play in the Final after they scored on a man-advantage which they got when Cale Makar got called for tripped Ondrej Palat 6:58 into the second.
The goal from Nikita Kucherov came with :49 left in the power play and now it’s 2-1 Lightning.
The section full of Lightning fans/staffers is getting louder by the minute and simultaneous “Let’s Go Bolts” and “Let’s Go Avs” chants are ringing out in Ball Arena.
It’s a wild atmosphere in here and the Lightning fans are getting louder, which is making the Avs fans louder,
Video: TBL@COL, Gm5: Kucherov one-times 4-on-3 PPG off post
9:30 p.m. ET
The Avalanche are on the board, tying the game on a goal by Valeri Nichushkin and this place is going bonkers.
Nichushkin has been a pain in the Lighting’s side all series, and this may be his biggest goal to date as the Lightning were seemingly starting to take control.
I’m told Von Miller, former Denver Bronco, former Los Angeles Ram and current Buffalo Bill is here.
Speaking of the Rams, their owner, E. Stanley Kroenke, is also the owner/chairman of the Avalanche.
It would be quite a feat for him to have one of his teams win the Super Bowl in February and another win the Stanley Cup four months later.
Another former Bronco, Mark Schlereth is here, He was in the crowd wearing an Avs jersey with a number – well, it was one less than 70.
Video: TBL@COL, Gm5: Nichushkin deposits rebound on doorstep
9:15 p.m. ET
The second period is about to get started and the Lightning lead 1-0 on a goal from who else but Jan Rutta.
Teams that score first when facing elimination in the Final own an all-time record of 54-25 (.684).
The Lightning went 0-for-2 on the power play in the first period and the Avalanche were 0-for-1.
It was a pretty even period, but Darcy Kuemper got beat on by Rutta at 15:23 of the first period. It was Rutta’s first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Great timing, Jan.
The Lightning are outhitting the Avalanche 16-15, and the Lighting have won 54% of the face-offs.
Andrei Vasilevskiy looks sharp and you have the figure the Avs are going to come in waves in the second period.
9 p.m. ET
I know this isn’t breaking news, but the Lightning are not going quietly. They lead 1-0 after one on a goal by Jan Rutta.
The Avalanche had a great chance to score in the final seconds of the period, but Nathan MacKinnon was denied on a breakaway by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Avalanche have outshot the Lightning 13-11 in the first period, but it’s the two-time champs with the 1-0 lead.
If you want some good news, Avs fans, the Lightning are 7-1 in the postseason when the opponent scores first.
The Lightning staffers, we think it’s them, in front of us, are very fired up, and the rest of the crowd is a bit stunned.
Still 40 minutes to go, but if anyone thought the Lightning were going to make it easy, think again.
8:52 p.m. ET
We have our first goal and it comes from an unlikely source. Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta just beat Darcy Kuemper with a slap shot from the right face-off circle and it’s 1-0 Lightning, and this place – aside from the Lightning staffers in front of us – is stunned.
Rutta’s goal at 15:21 makes it the second straight game in which the Lightning have scored first.
Kuemper had looked sharp until that goal, one I’m sure he would like back. Of course, he would like all of them back.
Video: TBL@COL, Gm5: Rutta sneaks slap shot home short side
8:47 p.m. ET
The Lightning were able to overcome the Stamkos penalty, so we are still at 0-0 with 5:24 left in what has been an entertaining first period. Lots of action at each end with big hits and a few big saves.
This crowd is just waiting to erupt. You can feel the anticipation each time the Avalanche cross the blue line with the puck.
Give the Lightning credit, the have survived the first 15 minutes of this first period in a rather hostile environment.
8:40 p.m. ET
With left in the first period, it’s 0-0 and the shots are even at six each.
But the lethal Avalanche power play is coming on the ice after Steven Stamkos was whistled for tripping Nathan MacKinnon.
Huge break here for the Avs and there was a TV timeout after the penalty call, so MacKinnon and others can get a rest before the man-advantage.
The Lighting are now 1-for-16 on the power play in the Final. That’s not going to get it done.
8:30 p.m. ET
The Lightning are going on the power play again, this time Nazem Kadri taking a hooking penalty.
If the Lighting don’t win this series, their power play will be a big reason. A unit that saved them in Game 3 against the New York Rangers of the Eastern Conference Final with two goals, was 1-for-15 in the Final, including an futile effort after J.T. Compher took a high-sticking penalty at 3:13 of the first, before the Kadri penalty.
For the second time in this Final the Ball Arena DJ has played “Ain’t Talking About Love,” by Van Halen. He follows that up the “Levitating” by Dua Lipa – I did not have the Shazam that one.
According to NHLstats, the Avalanche are 1-0 in the Final when the DJ plays that Van Halen song.
I think they just introduced a member of the Denver Nuggets, but honestly, I couldn’t name one Nugget since Galinari left town.
8:25 p.m. ET
There has been plenty of hitting early in here with each team really going after it.
And now the Lightning on going on the power play after J.T. Compher was whistled for high-sticking Ondrej Palat.
Holy heck, this place is loud.
It might be the loudest I have heard an arena during this Final. The crowd is totally amped.
And why not, there is a very special guest in the house. His name is Stanley. Last name Cup.
8:15 p.m. ET
And here we go.
Game 5 has begun after another stirring pregame show.
Brayden Point is out for the Lightning and Andre Burakovsky is out for the Avalanche.
Not only is the arena packed, but so is the watch party a block or so from the arena.
Country star Chris Stapleton was supposed to play a show at Ball Arena tonight, but he had to move it back.
I saw a few fans of his in the hotel yesterday who came to Denver anyway and they said, “well, maybe we’ll go to the game instead.”
I told them it might be a tough ticket with the Cup in the building an all. As for about 10 minutes ago, the cheapest seat on Stubhub was about $1,800. So yeah, a tough ticket.
Though they needed OT to win Game 4, the Avalanche dominated from pretty much the start of the second period. Can they come up flying again? Can the Lightning, who are really banged up, hold off the initial surge the Avs will get from being back at home and being one win from the Cup?
We will soon find out.
8:00 p.m. ET
Though the Avalanche fans are in full throat, the Lightning are well represented, at least in the section in front of us.
The Lightning brought their entire full-time staff to Game 5 and I have a feeling they are all sitting right in front of us. It’s making for some good fun in the crowd.
We are about 15 minutes from puck drop.
7:40 p.m. ET
Warmups have begun and Andre Burakovsky is not on the ice for the Avalanche. He did not travel to Tampa for Games 3 and 4, so that’s a big blow for Colorado if he’s not back in the lineup.
For Tampa, Brayden Point is also not on the ice either. He looked pretty solid in an optional skate today, but it looks like he’s out. On a good news from for Tampa Bay, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak are out there for the Lightning, who will try to save their season again.
This is the third time this postseason they have faced elimination. They won Games 6 and 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Now they have to win three straight to win three straight Cups.
The DJ is now clearly has his mind on the offseason, playing the Atari’s remake of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.”
He then played the Dropkick Murphy’s “The Boys are Back,” before they came on the ice for warmups.
I wonder if young kids today even know who Don Henley is. For that matter, I wonder if they know what Atari means.
But I digress.
The Avalanche have once again provided their fans with white pom poms to wave during the game, so expect to see a lot of that on TV tonight.
Fans are already chanting “We want the Cup.” I think they mean it.
The Ball Arena DJ is certainly ready for a celebration. He just played “Waiting for Tonight,” by Jennifer Lopez, followed by “Tonight is the Night,” by Outasight – I have to be honest, I Shazamed that one. I sense a theme. He then played “The Fixer” by Pearl Jam.
We are about 45 minutes from puck drop and the anticipation is building, though the players seem pretty loose.
On our way up to the press box we saw the Lightning players doing their pregame soccer routine. They seemed pretty relalxed.
Some Avs fans are already practicing their “All the Small Things” lyrics for later in the game.
The arena is still a bit empty, but I’m sure by the time warmups start it will be close to full.
7 p.m. ET
The Stanley Cup is in the house. It can be presented tonight if the Avalanche win, and this city is ready to party like it’s 2001.
It was actually sort of a quiet day in Denver, but as game time drew closer, so did the crowd near Ball Arena.
We are about 30 minutes from warmups and, as always, there is plenty of intrigue with the lineups; I say always because each coach has been very tight-lipped about the status of injured players. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said forward Andre Burakovsky is a “possibility” to play Game 5 after missing Games 3 and 4 in Tampa.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper played it coy with forwards Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli, so keep an eye on warmups.
Obviously, this is a huge game for each team. The Lightning want to win to keep their season and three-peat hopes alive. The last thing the Avalanche want to do is get back on a plane to Tampa for a Game 6 on Sunday.
We’ll be back in a little bit.