Stanley Cup Final returns to Tampa for Game 6

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DENVER — Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has often referred to his players as “players” in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, praising his team’s efforts night after night.

But “gamer” is a loose term, more or less hockey-speak to the general public. So what does he mean exactly?

“You just looked at the definition,” Cooper said Friday night, after Tampa Bay edged the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. “I don’t even know what else to say to describe the guys. You are in the series, Cup is in the building. You are in a great environment for the home team. And how do you show the game spirit? Everything we just did.

The Lightning avoided elimination with the 3-2 win at Ball Arena in Denver, which sent the best-of-seven series back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday night. Colorado leads the series, 3-2.

“That warrior mentality has been ingrained in this squad for many years and has been a big reason why our squad has been successful over the past few years and we’re striving to do that again this year,” said the defender. of Tampa Bay, Ryan McDonagh. “It’s part of our DNA and it must continue to be part of our DNA.”

Tampa Bay won Game 5 when it mattered most, taking an early lead, playing tight defense and scoring on the power play. As he looked for a big late goal, striker Ondrej Palat delivered.

Game 5 recap: Lightning avoid elimination, send Stanley Cup Finals back to Tampa

“We had no choice,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “It was do or die for us. Sometimes you get caught looking a little ahead of you. This group has done a great job of focusing on the present.

A Game 6 win at Amalie Arena isn’t guaranteed for the home team, Cooper said, but he believes the Lightning will have the advantage. With his plethora of playoff experience, Cooper said his team is better equipped to handle elimination scenarios.

When the Lightning faced a 2-0 series hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they came back to win the next four straight games and clinch a berth in the Finals.

“I have to marvel at what happened and how many times you can get kicked and knocked off the mat,” Cooper said. “And that’s why I think teams don’t repeat because it’s easy to walk away. These guys won’t.

Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, but faces a different road this year. He beat the Dallas Stars in six games for his first championship in 2020. The Lightning only needed five games in 2021 to top the Montreal Canadiens.

“We wanted to come back, push back, see what happens, see where it goes,” Tampa Bay forward Corey Perry said. “We did our job [in Game 5] but there is a great task ahead that we must do.

The last NHL team to trail 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals and win was the Boston Bruins in 2011.

For Lightning forward Pat Maroon, the group’s resilience comes from its work ethic. As cliché as it sounds, Maroon said, the Lightning just wanted to play one hockey game and win that game. Look too far and the road will seem more intimidating.

“You just have to work hard,” Maroon said. “There is a huge challenge ahead of us. It is an exciting challenge. How are you going to kiss her? That’s it. Just because we have ice cream at home doesn’t mean s— to be honest. We still have to work.

Andre Burakovsky heads to Tampa

Colorado coach Jared Bednar said Saturday that forward Andre Burakovsky is traveling with the Avalanche to Tampa. Bednar said Burakovsky is staying day to day and is a possibility for Game 6. Burakovsky has missed three straight games with a suspected upper body injury.

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