Vasilevskiy at his best as Bolts stop streak

by Gary Shelton on January 23, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with seven shutouts./JEFFREY S. KING

Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with seven shutouts./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

It wasn't just the puck that Andrei Vasilevskiy kept at bay Tuesday night.

It was the pressure, too.

Vasilevskiy, riding a losing streak, came up with perhaps his signature effort Tuesday night in a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Vasilevskiy's seventh shutout of the season, which leads the NHL, and it helped the Lighting snap a worst-of-the-year three-game losing streak.

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Braydon Coburn said the penalty kill helped the Bolts./STEVEN MUNCIE

Braydon Coburn said the penalty kill helped Bolts./STEVEN MUNCIE

It was the 11th shutout of Vasilevskiy's career, and perhaps his most impressive. Only once, back in November against the Blue Jackets, has Vasilevskiy stopped more than the 40 shots he faced against Chicago (the Blue Jackets had 43). But in that game, the Lightning was riding a four-game winning streak. In fact, in none of Vasilevskiy's shutouts has he been in goal when the Bolts lost more than one in a row.

“You’ve got to feel for him," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "It’s been a tough little run for him, and it’s not because of the way he’s played. Just some unlucky breaks have gone against him. He’s too good a goalie for that to continue. You could see early he was in the groove and he just kept that going for the rest of the night.”

This time, Chicago had several Grade A scoring chances, but Vasilevskiy -- who had lost four of his previous five starts -- stopped them all. It was a refreshing look for Vasilevskiy, who had given up 23 goals in his previous five games. The Bolts regained the best record in the NFL at 32-12-3.

Vasilevskiy tied the Lightning franchise record for shutouts in a season with almost half a season to play.

"The first period was big for me, big for us, especially the last couple games we didn’t play well in the first," Vasilevskiy said. "That’s definitely I get some confidence from that first period.”

Vasilevskiy said the game was a step in the right direction for the Bolts.

“I think for whole team," Vasilevskiy said. "As I said, it’s a big win and, definitely, we’ll have some more confidence now. But this game is in the past. Tomorrow’s a new game, new day, so just one game at a time.”

Defenseman Braydon Coburn said Vasilevskiy got on the roll with early saves.

“I feel like that’s something Vasy does quite consistently for us," Coburn said. "He’ll make a big save and then really sit into the groove. After that, he was lights out.”

Vasilevskiy got all the support he needed when Chris Kunitz caromed a puck off Chicago goalie Jeff Glass' left skate for a shorthanded goal. Yanni Gourde's third-period goal added insurance.

The Lightning killed all six of its penalties in the game.

“That was the difference in the game," Cooper said. "Look at the guys they throw over the boards. So you’re going to give them 11 minutes of power-play time and to keep them off the board, especially a 45 second 5-on-3, that was the difference.”

Said Coburn: "You know what, I think it was a sense of urgency. I think everybody kind of understood what had been going on. I felt like we had a couple guys that came in, Peca and Bournival out there, but I thought we did a good job of skating and disrupting their entries as much as we could and then getting in lanes and trying to make them make tough passes and tough plays.

"We needed a game like tonight. We needed to shut the door defensively. You look at (Vasilevskiy), he played an unbelievable game. Chicago did a good job of attacking the net and getting lots of chances. ... We did a good job of keeping them to minimum opportunities."

The Lightning plays at Nashville tonight. The puck drops at 8 p.m.



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