'He's Mr. Reliable': Lightning praise Palat following Game 3 winner
Moments after Ondrej Palat prevented the Tampa Bay Lightning from going down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, praise poured in for the man of the hour.
"I'll call (Palat) a star in my eyes," forward Pat Maroon said after the Bolts' dramatic 3-2 victory, according to team beat reporter Chris Krenn. "He's a big-time player who steps up in big-time moments, and that's what stars do."
Palat received a slick pass from Nikita Kucherov and potted it short side past star netminder Igor Shesterkin with less than a minute remaining in regulation to give the Lightning their first victory of the series.
The goal also made franchise history: Palat passed Tyler Johnson to become Tampa Bay's all-time leader in playoff game-winners with his 10th timely tally.
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Joe Pavelski (14), Evgeni Malkin (13), Jonathan Toews (11), and Patrick Kane (11) are the only active players with more postseason game-winners.
Five of Palat's 10 goals came during the Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2020 and 2021.
"That's the stat of a player that elevates his game at the time the team needs him the most. … It's not surprising to us to see him come up clutch in those moments," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said, per Bally Sports.
"Huge, huge moment for us, for this series, for the momentum going into Game (4). Pally's a guy that - no matter what situation, no matter what stage - he's Mr. Reliable."
Head coach Jon Cooper praised the understated Palat's consistent effort and versatility.
"He's been doing it in his career, and he's usually the third guy talked about on the lines he plays on. ... It's much deserved, and all his linemates would say the same thing," he said, according to Krenn.
The Lightning drafted Palat in the seventh round in 2011. He has 43 goals and 40 assists in 129 career playoff games.
Tampa Bay will look to even up the series in Game 4 on Tuesday.
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