All-Star game got it right with Vasy; is Point next?

by Gary Shelton on January 9, 2019 · 4 comments

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Vasilevskiy stopped all 31 shots he faced./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Andrei Vasilevskiy proved the NHL was right when they added him to the All-Star game.

Brayden Point, it seems, is still stating his case.

Together, the duo made the return home of the Tampa Bay Lighting a success Tuesday night, both starring as the Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. The Bolts are now 33-8-2 on the season and 16-1-1 in their last 18 games.

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Point celebrates his first goal for Bolts./JEFFREY S. KING

For Vasilevskiy, the game was a celebration of his being added to the All-Star team earlier in the day. Vasilevskiy pitched his second shutout of the year, and the 14th of his career.

Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots on the night, 17 of them in the second period. He earned his 17th victory of the season. The 14 shutouts ties Vasilevskiy with Nikolai Khabibulin for the second-most shutouts in franchise history (Ben Bishop had 17).

Kucherov celebrates his 21st goal./JEFFREY S. KING

"I think I got lucky on that one (the selection)," Vasilevskiy said. "Obviously, our team's playing really well this season. That's probably the only reason why I got it."

Ryan McDonagh disagreed.

"He's super competitive, super focused and everyday is a 24/7 job for him," McDonagh said of Vasilevskiy. "He doesn't take a day off. Even if were not coming to the rink that day, he's doing a great job taking care of himself and you want your goaltender to do that. It makes you play so much harder for him. But I just like that he keeps that even keel focus about him and maybe if it doesn't go his way in one game he doesn't change up his routine in practice, he continues to battle and take shots and comes with a positive attitude come game time."

Columbus coach John Tortorella, the Columbus coach and formerly of the Lightning, gave credit to Vasilevskiy.

"When we’re on top of them like we were in the second period -- their goalie was just outstanding," Tortorella said. "That’s the way it’s going for them right now."

Johnson had an assist for Bolts./JEFFREY S. KING

But the all-star discussion isn't over around here.

Also shining for Tampa Bay was Point, who scored two goals and added an assist in the victory. He has 26 goals for the season, one of the leaders in the last-one-in voting that concludes Thursday. Point has a point in nine of his last 10 games.

Nikita Kucherov, already in the All-Star game, scored a goal. So did rookie Matthieu Joseph.

"It's hard to come back from the West coast," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It's a three-hour change, long flight and then the first game back after a long trip is a dicey one for the team. I know guys were tired. I thought they came out outstanding. Our first period was exceptional. The scary one was the second. That's where I was wondering if we were going to have enough energy to finish, and clearly Vasy was our best player in the second period. He makes a remarkable save on Panarin on the one-timer, so that gives us a little bit of breathing room. The guys found their legs in the third. We talk about locking games down, and that's where they did it."

Cooper was proud of the way his team rallied in the third period.

"It was all about puck management," Cooper said. "You want to watch the tale of two periods, watch the second, watch the third. Our first and third were very similar, but the chances we gave up, it was all, we just fueled the rush. They're a good team. You keep turning pucks over and keep giving them rushes, that's what you're going to get. It was unfortunate, but I do really like the way they regrouped in the third."

The Bolts are home again Thursday night against Carolina. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

Joseph scored the Lightning's first goal./JEFFREY S. KING






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