TAMPA, Fla. – Ondrej Palat’s goal with 42 seconds remaining in Sunday afternoon’s Game 3 against the Rangers at Amalie Arena marked the 10th game-winner of his playoff career.
The 31-year-old forward snapped a tie with Tyler Johnson for the most game-winners in Lightning playoff history, and has the fourth-most such goals among active NHL players.
Palat may not attract the headlines and possess the star power like that of a few of his teammates. However, he has put together quite an impressive 10-year career since being drafted by the Lightning in the seventh round, 207th overall, in 2011. His teammates, especially those who have been with him for a while, know how valuable he has been.
“Obviously, that is a stat of a player that elevates his game at a time the team needs him the most,” said Steven Stamkos, who knows a few things about timely goal scoring, of the 10 game-winners. “It is not surprising to us to see him come up clutch in those moments. ‘Pally’ is a guy that no matter the situation and no matter the stage, he is Mr. Reliable.”
Palat was Mr. Relief to Lightning fans as the clock ticked down to what turned out to be a happy ending to Game 3. Indeed, the goal in the 3-2 win gives the Lightning a chance to even the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday night (8 p.m., ESPN) when the puck drops on Game 4 at Amalie.
Palat’s goal, a one-timer that beat Igor Shesterkin on the short side by the right post and came off a nifty backhand feed from Nikita Kucherov, was his sixth of this playoff year and 43rd in 129 career postseason matches.
“Kuch got in the slot and made a great pass to me,” he said. “I was just trying to shoot it on the net and luckily it went in.”
This marks the fourth time Palat, whose career playoff resume also includes a plus/minus rating of plus-29, has scored at least six goals in a playoff year. His high-water mark is 11 during the Toronto and Edmonton bubble playoff of 2020.
“We have seen this for years,” said coach Jon Cooper. “He is the quiet kid. He doesn’t say anything. All he does is give you everything he has on every shift. He’s played up and down the lineup, but has the ability to play the blue-collar game with white-collar players. That is a great trait to have. He’s usually the third guy talked about on the lines he plays on, but he comes through with statistics (like 10 career game-winning playoff goals.)”
The quiet kid, whose most recent playoff game-winners were the pair he had in last year’s opening round against the Panthers, raised the roof Sunday. If the Lightning end up defeating the Rangers to advance to the Cup final for a third straight year, it would come of no surprise if Palat does so again.
Active NHL Playoff Career Game-Winning Goal Leaders
1. Joe Pavelski, 14
2. Evgeni Malkin, 13
3T. Jonathan Toews 11
3T. Patrick Kane 11