Three Stars: Kucherov comes alive for Lightning in Game 5
Another night in the NHL’s conference finals, another thriller of a finish. The Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a pair of deficits in Game 5, only to need less than a minute to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime. The victory gives the Lightning their second straight win and a 3-2 lead in the Eastern series, while dealing the Penguins their first loss of the season when leading after two periods.
Here’s who stood out to us:
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Just call him Clutcherov. After being kept under wraps by Pittsburgh's tight checking through the first four games of the series, Kucherov exploded for a pair of goals in Game 5, including a late-third period tally that sent the contest into overtime. Of course, that kind of heroics is old hat for Kucherov. This was the third time in this postseason that he's tied a game in the third, leading to a Lightning win in overtime.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Freed of the fish bowl that obscured his vision in Game 4, Johnson was back to top form in Game 5. He won a puck battle behind the Pittsburgh net to set up Kucherov's equalizer, then won a battle for space in front of it in overtime. The resulting goal wasn't the prettiest of his career—Jason Garrison's close-ranger slapper bounced off his back and in behind Marc-Andre Fleury—but it was a fitting capper on a night when he set the tone with his work ethic and net drive.
Jason Garrison, Tampa Bay Lightning
The big defenseman was at his best Sunday night, using his heavy shot to test Fleury five times, tops on the Bolts. He also had the smarts to recognize the space that Pittsburgh's defense allowed him in OT, driving all the way down to the dot before firing the blast that caromed in for the game-winner.