Advertisement
  1. Blogs
  2. /
  3. Lightning Strikes

Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to form in record-setting win

Andrei Vasilevskiy became the Lightning's all-time leader in shutouts for a season in Tuesday's win against Boston.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy applauds the crowd inside Amalie Arena after being named the first star in Tuesday's win against the Bruins. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy applauds the crowd inside Amalie Arena after being named the first star in Tuesday's win against the Bruins. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Apr. 4, 2018
Updated Apr. 5, 2018

TAMPA — The Bruins were in town for another important game that would impact the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and there was the Lightning, once again with its back against a wall.

Only this time the wall was in the dressing room and served as the backdrop for victorious postgame interviews.

And as Brayden Point and Victor Hedman talked about Tampa Bay's 4-0 win Tuesday — one in which the Lightning played its best game in weeks — they made sure to credit the last line of defense.

RELATED: Lightning look like Cup contenders after win against Bruins

That would be goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who set a franchise record with his eighth shutout of the season by playing his best game in some time.

"He's a competitor, and he showed that again," Hedman said.

Said Point, "He's such a good goalie, and when he's on his game, it's really hard to beat him. Even in practice, when he's on his game, it almost seems impossible (to beat him). He deserves all the accolades he gets."

Here are those accolades:

• Vasilevskiy posted his league-best 43rd victory.

• He pitched his league-high eighth shutout.

• He earned his 84th career win, moving past Nikolai Khabibulin for second in franchise history. Ben Bishop is first with 131.

• He beat Boston for the first time in his career.

Vasilevskiy was happy that he played well against the Bruins, but he said — as he has nearly all season — that he is not interested in personal accomplishments.

"It's nice to get that shutout before the playoffs and pick up some confidence from that game," he said. "We have to play the same way in the next game."

RELATED: Tuesday's win has roots to lose last week in Boston

Vasilevskiy credited, as he so often does, the play of those in front of him. And though the Lightning looked much better from start to finish than it has in recent games, Vasilevskiy said he did not notice much of a difference.

"It's the same as we've done all season long," he said. "In the last couple of weeks, we didn't get our bounces, and (Tuesday) we did. That's why they didn't score, because we got our bounces. But we've played the same way."

The Lightning played without Steven Stamkos, who missed the game with a lower-body injury. After the morning skate, Chris Kunitz said the Lightning needed contributions from players other than the usual suspects. He then chipped in with his first goal in 11 games.

Point and Hedman scored, and J.T. Miller continued to provide offense with his 10th goal since joining the team at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. And Vasilevskiy made it all stand up by stopping 33 shots and passing Khabibulin for the most shutouts in one season in franchise history.

It was a solid game from a goalie who was better than solid in the first half of the season but then hit a rut, perhaps because of his increased workload, perhaps because of the sloppy play by the defense in front of him.

Perhaps, coach Jon Cooper offered, because no one is safe from a slump over the course of an 82-game season.

"He's proud," Cooper said. "He's had a heck of a year, and nobody is immune, especially a guy who has played in 64 of our games this year. It happens. Sometimes the puck is going to go behind you, and sometimes it's not, and in his case, most times it doesn't. That's a big reason we have the win total we do."

Beating Boston was the objective. Having the All-Star goalie get a shutout in the process, well, maybe that brings Vasilev­skiy and the team closer to what they were during the first half of the season.

"There is a big difference between 4-0 and 4-1," Cooper said, "and 4-0, I'm sure, meant a lot to him."

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50