The Colorado Avalanche find themselves on the brink of Stanley Cup glory, which is now so close they can taste it as they look to wrap up the finals in Game 5 on Friday.
Nazem Kadri's overtime winner in Game 4 on Wednesday has put the Avs 3-1 up in the best-of-seven series, leaving the defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning with a mountain to climb as the teams head back to the Rockies for the next, and potentially final chapter, in the season.
The Lightning twice led on home ice in Game 4 but couldn't get the job done, leaving their dreams of a three-peat hanging by a thread with Tampa Bay a massive 9/1 to win the series and 6/4 to stay alive with victory in Game 5.
Colorado are 10/17 for the win they need to clinch their first Stanley Cup since 2001 but will be all too aware that the job is not done yet against a Bolts' side that never quits.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Stanley Cup Final Game 5
Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
20:00, Friday 24th June, 2022
How to watch
ABC or ESPN+ or bet365 Live Streaming
COL Avalanche 10/17, TB Lightning 6/4
Tampa Bay have already come from behind twice in these playoffs, recovering from early setbacks to oust the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers in previous rounds.
The Avalanche are a step up from the teams the Lightning have come up against previously in the postseason but they've shown they can match them, winning Game 3 6-2 and dominating the early stages of Game 4.
Tampa Bay got out of the blocks quickly on Wednesday, Anthony Cirelli netting after 36 seconds and appeared on course to extend their winning streak on home ice in the playoffs to nine, only to have Colorado wrestle away the momentum.
Head coach Jon Copper was visibly upset by the defeat having felt his team had deserved to level the series but there were positives for the Bolts to take out of the game.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, fresh making 37 saves in Game 3, put in another strong performance, stopping 34 shots, and with him on top of his game, the Lightning have a chance to steal Game 5.
Tampa Bay's Big Cat is also getting more help from the guys in front of him with the Lightning's defencemen, led by a standout performance from Victor Hedman, registering a series-high 35 blocks in Game 4.
Overall, Tampa Bay have done well for long stretches against the Avs fearsome attack in their two matchups at the Amalie Arena.
However, they only have one win to show for their efforts and continue to struggle to keep pace with Colorado when they are transitioning. They also need more from their big-name forwards with Ondrej Palat's good playoff form having tailed off in the finals; the Czech going pointless in Game 4.
Palat and a few others need to step up on Tampa Bay's return to Colorado, particularly if the Lightning can't call upon Brayden Point and Cirelli, who are both doubts for Game 5 through injury.
Tampa Bay's last visit to the Ball Arena ended in a humbling 7-0 loss and that venue, where the home side are 7-2 in the playoffs, will be rocking once more with the Avalanche so close to the cup now.
Colorado's defeat in Game 3 was their first on the road in the playoffs and they showed their mettle by bouncing back from that one-sided loss, and a slow start to Game 4, to remain in control of the series.
Darcy Kuemper, who got the hook in Game 3, had a strong 37-save night but perhaps most importantly for Colorado were the goals from Nathan MacKinnon and Kadri.
The Avs' depth pieces got the job done in the first two games of the series with star man MacKinnon having previously failed to score in the finals before his second period goal in Game 4.
MacKinnon now has 12 playoff goals on the year, while Kadri increased his tally to seven with his overtime winner. Kadri has missed Colorado's last four games with a hand injury and having been a standout performer in their playoff runner before getting hurt, his return is timely as Colorado look to close it out.
Having put their previous playoff woes behind them earlier in the postseason, this Colorado team looks ready to go all the way and complete the job of winning the franchise's second Stanley Cup.
They have proven too deep and too fast for the Lightning for the majority of the series, and yet, it could prove wise to take the value on Tampa Bay to win Game 5.
The reigning champions never know when they are beaten and there was enough to like about their last two performances to suggest they can send the series to a sixth game.