Vasilevskiy earns his 36th win in beating Montreal

by Gary Shelton on February 25, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy is already high on the Lightning's win list./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Vasilevskiy is already high on the Lightning's win list./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Sunday, 3 a.m.

He no longer seems young. He no longer seems new. He no longer looks like a man trying to play in the best hockey league in the world.

These days, Andrei Vasilevskiy looks ... like a goaltender.

Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as a starter, won his 36th game of the season Saturday night in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal. If that doesn't sound impressive, consider this: In its history, the Lightning has had only nine seasons in which the team has gotten more wins from its goaltenders. All of them.

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Point scored the winning goal in a shootout./CARMEN MANDATO

Point scored the winning goal in a shootout./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots, and all three in the shootout. On the final shot, Vasilevskiy made a save in which, once again, he reached behind his back to block the shot.

The win was Vasilevskiy's 77th of his young career, and already, he has tied Darren Puppa for third place on the franchise win list.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means," said captain Steven Stamkos. "We kind of

Callahan scored for the Bolts in their victory./CARMEN MANDATO

Callahan scored for the Bolts in their victory./JEFFREY S. KING

challenged ourselves in the room to come out, have a good third and give ourselves a chance to win. It’s 3-for-3 on the road. That’s good. I guess at the end of the day, the good thing is that we’re not even playing our best and we’re going to continue to improve and get better. It’s something that’s positive, but there’s some things that we need to adjust.”

Stamkos drew an instigating penalty after he fought Karl Alzner.

“I didn’t catch the entire play," Stamkos said. "I was kind of watching Kuch and then I saw it looked like a knee fast and Kuch kind of held his knee so I didn’t know if he was hurt or not. It was just kind of a reaction thing. I know Alzner pretty well. He’s not a dirty player. I kind of dropped my gloves and grabbed him from behind. It was just a reactionary thing. I thought Kuch got hurt and it was a knee quick and after looking at it, it wasn’t as malicious as maybe I thought at the time. It was just reactionary and that’s it.”

Said Ryan Callahan: “You see your captain step up like that and a guy like Stammer who doesn’t do that, doesn’t need to do that, goes out of his way to stand up for a teammate, everybody on the bench gets a lift from that. It just shows what kind of guy Stammer is and what kind of leader he is. We know that in here but now I think you guys get another glimpse of it. We care about each other in here, and Stammer showed that.”

The Lightning got an early goal from Brayden Point, and then Point scored the only goal  in a shootout.

“Brayden Point was outstanding tonight, one of the guys who was playing responsible," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I felt for him, that’s why I had to put him in the shootout because he’d had so many breakaways I figured one of them had to go in. So it was timely that was the one that went in.”

The Bolts also got goals from Nikita Kucherov, his 33rd, and Callahan.

“I thought the best we played was after we scored," Cooper said. "We scored two minutes in (to the 3rd period) and there was a little bit of urgency in our game and our game was a lot more responsible in that last 18 minutes than it was in the first two periods. But, it’s a good sign for our team because they knew it. And they knew they weren’t playing near to their potential, it was just high risk all over the place and they knew it. That’s what I like about the group, they handled it themselves then came out and won a hockey game because of it."

It was the Lightning's third win on their three-game road swing, giving the team 22 wins away from home.

“We came on a three-game road trip and got six points, so the guys are finding a way," Cooper said. "This is a hard league to win in, it really is, and they’re finding a way. You can’t wait until the third and be down in the third and expect every time you’re going to come back and play the right way. Our game was in pockets. We struggled for a bit, Stammer sticks up for a teammate, all of a sudden there’s emotion in the game and we played really well. And then we come out in the second period and we were pretty much just flat the whole time and it was just high risk and went back into a lot of our bad habits. They handle it themselves and they come out in the third period with a little urgency and they pull the game out. But that urgency has got to be there for a lot more of the game than it was tonight.”

Callahan said the Lightning weren't perfect, but they were effective.

“There’s always things you have to work on throughout, turnovers, defensive zone coverage," Callahan said. "I thought our defensive zone coverage was a little bit better tonight actually. Still some extended periods in our zone, but I thought we closed them out well, broke out of the zone pretty well early on and then I really liked our response in the third, killed off some really big penalties, power play comes through. Good response in the third after another long road trip, last game of the road trip. Six points out of three games on the road, we’re happy with it.”

The Bolts return home to play Toronto on Monday night The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.





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