Monday, May 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning tops Sabres again (w/video)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was under siege in Thursday's second period.

There were scrambles in front, screens blinding the 6-foot-3 Russian. The Sabres dominated the Lightning, racking up 21 shots, including several dangerous scoring chances.

But Vasilevskiy, 21, poised beyond his years, shrugged it off: "I don't have to come into the locker room … and say, 'Oh my God, 21 shots.' That is my work. Just one more day in the office."

An extremely impressive one at that. Vasilevskiy made 30 saves in helping the Lightning hold on for a 4-1 win at First Niagara Center.

Twenty came in the Sabres' second-period flurry, a big reason the Lightning's three-goal first-period lead held up. Tampa Bay was outshot 31-22.

"You need your goalie to bail you out, but (Vasilevskiy) was the best player on the ice for us," coach Jon Cooper said. "You can't keep depending on goaltending."

Fortunately for the Lightning (7-6-2), it has two great options in Vasilevskiy and starter Ben Bishop. Vasilevskiy, who missed training camp and the season's first month because of a blood clot, has shown no rust in winning his first two starts, including Sunday in Carolina.

Vasilevskiy is earning more starts, which will give Bishop — who started 12 of the first 14 games — a much-needed break. The Lightning has won just two of its past seven games, both started by Vasilevskiy.

"It's definitely refreshing knowing we have that in our back pocket when 'Bish' can't go," captain Steven Stamkos said. " 'Vasy' is the ultimate pro. I know he's young, but his work ethic says a lot about the character he has."

The Lightning gave Vasilevskiy an early three-goal cushion, leading after the first period for the first time this season. Stamkos scored his seventh goal on a beautiful cross-zone feed from new linemate Valtteri Filppula. Tyler Johnson, who had zero goals in the first 12 games, tallied his second in the past three. And Nikita Kucherov, whom Cooper said has elevated his game, put in a rebound.

The Lightning knew the Sabres, 0-3-0 against it this season, would push back in the second. And they did, outshooting Tampa Bay 21-8. "We just completely lost our game," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We stopped skating. Stopped competing. You play a good team, you don't stand a chance playing like that."

Said Cooper: "I think we played like they were going to lay down."

But Vasilevskiy stepped up, stopping all but a highlight-reel goal by Sabres star rookie Jack Eichel. The Lightning clamped down in a boring third period, with both teams combining for just five shots. "That might have been a tough period to watch as a fan," Stamkos said.

Vasilevskiy said it was tough to miss the first part of the season but it helped he was able to work out and skate, only unable to face shots due to the blood thinners he was on. But Vasilevskiy said he's feeling better each day. The more games he plays, he said, he gains confidence and stays fresh. "I like it," he said. "It's good for me."

And the Lightning.

 

Lightning 3 0 1 4
Sabres 0 1 0 1
Lightning 3 0 1 4
Sabres 0 1 0 1

 

First1, TB, Stamkos 7 (Filppula, Palat), 5:55. 2, TB, T.Johnson 2 (Killorn, Kucherov), 11:35. 3, TB, Kucherov 5 (Namestnikov, Coburn), 18:20. PenaltiesCondra, TB (hook), 7:49.

Second4, Buf, Eichel 5 (Weber, Ennis), 4:21. PenaltiesGirgensons, Buf (high-stick), 5:12; Sustr, TB (interference), 18:21.

Third5, TB, Hedman 1 (Sustr), 19:30 (en). PenaltiesWeber, Buf (boarding), 11:26; Weber, Buf (delay of game), 15:37. SOGTB 11-8-3—22. Buf 8-21-2—31. PP opportunitiesTB 0 of 3; Buf 0 of 2. GoaliesTB, Vasilevskiy 2-0-0 (31 shots-30 saves). Buf, Ullmark 2-2-0 (11-8), C.Johnson (0:00 second, 10-10).

Comments
Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

WINNIPEG — The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup final — with a chip on their shoulder."Everybody on this team has something to prove," forward Ryan Reaves said. "We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

TAMPA – Capitals G Braden Holtby basically summed up playoff life for the Capitals after Saturday's Game 5 loss in the Eastern Conference final when he said the team never makes it easy for itself."No, we don't," coach Barry Trotz agreed Sunday...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

TAMPA — The Lightning is a win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Its Game 5 win Saturday, to take a 3-2 lead over the Washington Capitals, was another chapter of a story being written on the fly."Think about Game 1 in New Jersey,"...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

TAMPA — Alex Ovechkin headed toward the Capitals' locker room two hours before the start of Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final with the swagger of an elite athlete that suggested he was about take over a game and make life misera...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Gam...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

TAMPA — Dan Girardi knew where the puck was heading. It was heading to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer on net, so Girardi did the only thing he could do. He blocked it.With his rump."It hit me right in the cheek," said Girardi, the Lightning defe...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Faster than Justify down the stretch at the Preakness, quicker than Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle at Windsor Castle, the Lightning jumped on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. No runaway gallop. No funny hats. Just ho...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

TAMPA — They're called grinders. Pluggers. Checkers.They're lunch-pail guys. Like 9-to-5ers. They get up every day and go to work. They punch in and punch out for no glory or credit. But the business would fall apart without them.They're the fo...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

TAMPA — Cedric Paquette needed only 19 seconds to put the Lightning on the scoreboard Saturday night, coming up with the second-fastest playoff goal in franchise history.The only goal faster? Tampa Bay's Adam Hall needed only 13 seconds to scor...
Published: 05/19/18
Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win

Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win

It's one thing to get a quick goal from one of your big guns, but when the goal scorer is a grinder like Cedric Paquette, who was only on the ice at the start to counter the Capitals' top line, that just sends a jolt through the bench.The Caps' first...
Published: 05/19/18