Hello, Tampa Bay Lightning fans. It’s been awhile since we’ve posted one of these goal breakdowns. As usual, apologies for the blurriness of the screenshots, but the “enhance” button is broken at the Raw Charge offices.
Today we’re going to take a look at the Ondrej Palat, no Mikhail Sergachev, no it’s actually Palat game-winning goal from Game Five that swung the series in Tampa Bay’s favor, 3-2.
The highlight in it’s entirety.
The video picks up with Nikita Kucherov getting to a puck behind the New York Rangers net a step before K’Andre Miller. Kucherov gets a little bit of a break as his chip pass (to no one in particular) is knocked down by Jacob Trouba, but Trouba isn’t able to handle it clearly.
If Trouba does control it here, he can either nudge it to Filip Chytil or clear it out of the zone and down the ice, negating any danger whatsoever. He doesn’t and the Lightning take advantage of the little break in their favor.
Steven Stamkos is there to pick up the loose change and garner control of the puck. Immediately, he has a choice. Shoot it, pass it to Ondrej Palat (who is covered, but ready for a quick shot), or drop it back to Victor Hedman at the point.
He chooses option three and this highlights the problem the Rangers have had at times with the Lightning over the last three games - space. They are giving the Lightning too much of it and allowing them to make plays. From the moment Stamkos has the puck on his stick, New York doesn’t pressure any of the Tampa Bay players that touch it for the rest of the way.
Stamkos makes a nice little turn and Frank Vatrano allows an open lane back to Hedman. It seems Vatrano was a little more concerned with the direct cross-ice pass to Sergachev and he gave Stamkos enough of a lane to get it back Hedman.
Give Chris Kreider some credit here. As soon as the pass goes back to Hedman, he knows where the puck is heading to next - Sergachev. So he spins off of Palat and tries to get out to challenge Sergy who is just kind of chilling off to the right side of the ice while the other nine skaters are on the left side.
Sergachev has his head up the whole time and is calculating what his next move will be. Again, due to the space provided by the Rangers defense he has options. He can kick it back to Hedman (offscreen in the next photo), force a pass to Kucherov in the top left circle (covered), or Stamkos (getting tied up with Trouba in the bottom left circle), or shoot it.
The third option is the one he chooses. Igor Shesterkin is already trying to see around the screen set up by Palat and Miller in front of his crease. Miller is in decent position and has Palat’s stick pretty much tied up preventing him from using it to tip any shot from Sergachev, but he isn’t able to push Palat away from a dangerous part of the ice. Krieder isn’t able to to get close enough to Sergy to take away the shot option so Sergachev lets it go. As mentioned by the broadcaster, there is a nice little shimmy by the Lightning blueliner to get Krieder to lean to the middle of the ice to free open some more space for the shot.
One thing to notice is that despite Trouba being engaged with Stamkos, The Captain’s stick is free. There is a good chance Sergachev’s intent is to throw it at the net and have Stammer try and deflect it.
The shot is on it’s way here and we can’t see the puck, Shesterkin can’t see the puck so he’s dropping down and making himself as large as possible and hope it hits him or someone in front of him. As you can see, Stamkos has his stick out in a position to deflect the puck. He doesn’t make contact, but it does hit Palat and redirects past Shesterkin and into the net without the goaltender ever seeing it.
This is how the Lightning have designed their offense to work and why winning the positioning battle in front of the net, which Palat does, is so important. There is nothing abjectly impressive skill-wise about this goal. There was no great stick-handling moment or dazzling deke that led to it. Just hard work, trust in the process, and execution.