NHL - US Sports: Stanley Cup Game 6 Preview
The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning kept their three-peat bid alive with a 3-2 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and have the chance to level the series in Game 6 at home to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Lightning are -105 to be victorious and force a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Denver. The Avalanche are -115 to win and clinch their first Stanley Cup since 2001.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Stanley Cup Final Game 6
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
17:00 MST, Sunday 26th June 2022
|How to watch|
COL Avalanche -105, TB Lightning -115
Never any quit in Lightning
Now 20-2 following a defeat since the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, it's little surprise that the Lightning won't give up their chance to make history easily.
Bidding to become the first team since the New York Islanders in the early 1980's to win three Stanley Cups in a row (New York won four, 1980-83), the Lightning have shown time and time again that they cannot be counted out.
In the current playoffs they were 3-2 down in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Leafs and 2-0 down in the Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers and came back to win each time.
In all of Stanley Cup playoff history, a team has rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7 on 63 occasions. 49.2 per cent of those eventually won the series (31 of 63).
In the Stanley Cup Final itself, the turnaround has proved more difficult with just six teams rallying from 3-1 down to force a Game 7. The most recent was the Edmonton Oilers in 2006.
The only team to win Game 7 was the Maple Leafs back in 1942 but if another team were to do it, history points towards the self-dubbed Tampa Bay "Find-a-ways".
Lightning can count on Vasilevskiy
Star netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of Colorado's 37 shots in Game 5 and will no doubt give the Lightning a chance to take the series all the way to Game 7.
The 'Big Cat', widely considered to be the best goalie in the world, is now 4-0 with a .945 save-percentage and 1.75 goals-against-average over the past three seasons when facing elimination.
The 27-year-old has started all 22 of Tampa Bay's playoff games this season with a 14-8 record, .921 save-percentage and 2.54 GAA.
Vasilevskiy is +600 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs for a second season running.
Palat continues to play hero
Forward Ondrej Palat scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 with 6.22 remaining, ruining the Avalanche's planned Cup celebration at Ball Arena.
The strike was his 12th career game-winner in the playoffs, the most in Lightning history.
Only Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars (14) and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins (13) have more among active players.
The 31-year-old leads Tampa Bay for goals in the playoffs with 11, three of which have been game-winners.
Palat also has nine assists for 20 points and can be expected to produce again when the Lightning need him the most in the concluding moments of the Final. He is +2000 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Nichushkin on fire for Avalanche
The Avalanche have their own difference maker and the most in-form player of the Stanley Cup Final to rely upon heading into Game 6.
Red-hot winger Valeri Nichushkin scored again in Game 5, his fourth of the Stanley Cup Final which leads all players.
With one more goal he will pass Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay for the most in Colorado history during a championship series.
The 27-year-old has nine goals in the playoffs so far, plus six assists for 15 points. He is +2500 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Colorado will have no fear heading into Tampa Bay for Game 6. They are an excellent 8-1-0 on the road in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 41-28.
They were beaten by Tampa Bay at Amelie Arena in Game 3 of the Final, their single road defeat of the playoffs, but they immediately responded with a 3-2 win in Game 4.
The Lightning are 8-2-0 at home in the post-season, and have outscored their opponents 37-21.
Makar determined to finish the job
Defenceman Cale Makar won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenceman on Tuesday before stating his commitment to winning the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.
Makar had a goal and assist in Game 5, playing the most of any skater (28.09). The 23-year-old leads all defencemen in the playoffs with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists).
His assists tally is the fourth-most in a playoff campaign by a defenceman in NHL history.
Makar sits third of all players for points in this season's playoffs and in the Stanley Cup Final alone has seven points (three goals, four assists).
If the 23-year-old performs to his best in Game 6, the Lightning may have no answer and the dynamic blue-liner may well end the night hoisting the cup above his head.
Makar is -400 to add the Conn Smythe Trophy to his Norris award this season.
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