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Defending champs stave off elimination

DENVER — The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled Colorado’s party to stay in the hunt for a third straight Stanley Cup title, beating the Avalanche 3-2 on Friday night in Game 5.

Ondrej Palat scored with 6:22 remaining and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots in front of a raucous crowd hoping to celebrate the Avalanche’s first championship in 21 years. The Cup was all shined up and in the building, too.

It’s heading back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday night. The Lightning trail the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Jan Rutta also scored for the Lightning. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar had goals for Colorado. Makar’s third-period tally bounced off the skate of Erik Cernak and through the pads of Vasilevskiy to tie it at 2.

It set the stage for Palat, whose shot slipped through the pads of Darcy Kuemper. A brief hush fell over the crowd.

Tampa Bay regrouped after an emotional Game 4 loss at home on a overtime goal from Colorado forward Nazem Kadri. The Lightning felt the Avalanche might have had too many players on the ice on the winner.

The Avalanche are trying to capture their first title since 2001.

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