Bolts close out Hurricanes behind Vasilevskiy

by Gary Shelton on June 9, 2021

in general

Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched another shutout./STEVEN MUNCIE

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

In the big games, the Big Cat gets big eyes.

In such moments, he is huge, larger than the net, larger than the moment, than the game itself.

Once again, Andrei Vasilevskiy has slammed the door on another playoff series. Once again, he has made the best scorers on the other team walk away shaking their heads.

Have you heard this before? With the Lightning at the finish line, he pitched yet another shutout, this time turning away the Carolina Panthers 2-0 to win the second round of the NHL playoffs Tuesday night. Vasilevskiy had finished off the Panthers with a 4-0 win this year, and last year, he beat the Dallas Stars 2-0. In the three games, he faced 80 shots without giving up a goal.

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Tuesday night, Vasilevskiy faced 29 shots to beat the Hurricanes for the third time in the series in their own building. The Bolts have now knocked off the two teams that finished ahead of them in the NHL's Central Division, beating Florida in six games and Carolina in five.

"I've been fortunate enough to coach in a few playoffs now," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.  "Those are two of the toughest teams we’ve ever faced. It was a hell of grind to get out of this division."

The Bolts got goals from Braydon Point and Ross Colton in the win.

"The road is a tough place to win, and you've got to tip your hat to the guys," Cooper said. "They won three games in this building, and it's not easy. A big thing is experience. We've been down this road, there's a formula in place and you need the players to execute. I'm proud of them and I'm proud of their effort."

Vasilevskiy made that stand up. It was his 41st playoff win, not bad for a 26-year-old.

"He’s done that a lot for us this year," Point said. "He. makes a big save and leads us. We had a real messy power play. They were all over us, pressuring us hard. Giving us fits. We get one chance and we were able to make it pay.

“He’s such a hard worker. He comes to the rink every day and he’s ready to go. We rely on him in all situations. We've especially seen that in the playoffs. He’s been unbelievable. Tonight was one of his best games for sure."

Point scored his eighth goal of the post-season. Last year, he had 14.

"It’s not a fluke," Cooper said. "He’s a heck of a player. He has the heart of a lion. He can play at a fast pace. The moment is not to big for him. "

Point's goal came 48 seconds after Vasilevskiy reached to make a glove save on Vincent Trocheck's redirection at the right post with Carolina shorthanded.

"I tried to get across as fast as possible," Vasilevskiy said. "(Trocheck) made a good shot. It was kind of awkward, a knuckleball. I think I touched it with my glove. After that save, we scored. So we helped each other."

The Lighting will play the winner of the New York Islanders-Boston Bruins series. The Islanders lead that series 3-2.

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