Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning shuts out Leafs behind Vasilevskiy

TAMPA — Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, dressed in a T-shirt and backward baseball cap, finally emerged from the Lightning dressing room late Wednesday.

Vasilevskiy, 21, made a beeline for a special guest — his father, giving him a huge hug in the hallway.

It was a special moment for Vasilev­skiy, who earned his second career shutout with a 30-save masterpiece to lift the Lightning to a 1-0 victory over the Maple Leafs in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. And he did it with his parents, Andrei and Liudmila, in town from Russia, the first time they had seen their son play in person in the NHL.

"I showed them I can play in the NHL," Vasilevskiy said. "That's an amazing feeling."

The Lightning (27-18-4) enters the five-day All-Star break having won eight of its past nine games and moved into a tie for second place with Detroit in the Atlantic Division. But this game could have ended very differently.

Tampa Bay let its foot off the gas after a dominating first period, in which it took a 1-0 lead and outshot Toronto, tied for last in the league, 17-4. By the end, the Lightning was holding on for dear life, Toronto finishing with a 30-29 shot advantage.

"I don't think we can sit here and say we necessarily deserved the two points," captain Steven Stamkos said. "But 'Vasy' stepped up and had a fantastic game and gave us a chance to win."

Said defenseman Anton Stralman: "(Vasilevskiy) was our best player, by far, maybe the best player on the ice. Bottom line, he really won the game for us."

You've heard that a lot from the Lightning, its strong goaltending the only reason it remained afloat in a first half of the season plagued by injuries, scoring slumps, inconsistent play and off-ice controversies. Between starter Ben Bishop, a first-time All-Star and the team's rock, and Vasilevskiy, the dynamic duo has stolen their share of points this season.

"The reason we're still in a race," coach Jon Cooper said.

This game started like it should have, the Lightning peppering Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier with 17 first-period shots. Stamkos, playing against his hometown (and, Leafs fans hope, future) team, scored a power-play goal — his team-leading 21st goal — five minutes in.

"It was a continued barrage," Cooper said. "And then we stopped."

The Lightning got "a little casual, a little cute," Cooper said, with just five second-period shots. But Vasilevskiy made sure the game didn't slip away. He came through with a glove save on P.A. Parenteau after a hand pass. Then in the third, Vasilev­skiy robbed captain Dion Phaneuf twice from point-blank range.

"Every save he made, he was under complete control," Cooper said. "He was never scrambling."

Vasilevskiy said there weren't any added emotions with his parents in the stands. He said they watch every game on television, even if one starts around 3 a.m. in Russia. His father used to play goalie in Russia and often gives his son tips.

"We'll have to bring them out more often," Cooper said.

Quipped Stamkos: "I told (Vasilevskiy), 'Maybe they should move down here.' "

 

Lightning 1 0 0 1
Maple Leafs 0 0 0 0

 

First1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 21 (Stralman, Filppula), 4:38 (pp). PenaltiesPolak, Tor (delay of game), 3:59; Gardiner, Tor (tripping), 7:13; Clune, Tor (goaltender interference), 17:32.

SecondNone. PenaltiesCorrado, Tor (interference), 3:12; Kucherov, TB (embellishment), 5:45; Kadri, Tor (slashing), 7:48; Boyle, TB (high-sticking), 7:48; Parenteau, Tor (high-sticking), 14:19; Paquette, TB (slashing), 17:40.

ThirdNone. PenaltiesT.Johnson, TB (high-sticking), 5:10; Rielly, Tor (tripping), 9:42. Shots on GoalToronto 6-11-13—30. Tampa Bay 17-5-7—29. Power-play opportunitiesToronto 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 6. GoaliesToronto, Bernier 6-13-3 (29 shots-28 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 8-4-0 (30-30).

 
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