TAMPA — As much as the Lightning led the NHL in scoring, winning in the playoffs is often more on the defensive end, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stepped up Sunday, making 14 saves and not allowing a goal in the third period as Tampa Bay closed out a series-clinching 3-1 win against the Bruins.
"Every game, he's a factor," center Brayden Point said of Vasilevskiy, who held Boston to seven goals in the past four games. "He plays so well all the time and tonight was no different. When we need him, he comes up big."
The Lightning didn't give up an even-strength goal in the last three games, and Vasilevskiy was a major part of that, making 27 saves total, allowing only a power-play goal in the final minute of the opening period.
"That goes to show the commitment we had as a team to defending," center Steven Stamkos said. "We know we can put the puck in the net. We've seen that all season. We chose to play the right way."
Vasilevskiy had never held a playoff opponent to fewer than two goals entering this postseason, but Sunday marked the fourth time he's done it in 10 games this year.
Second to none
The second period was the Lightning's best period during the regular season, leading the NHL in goal differential. Sunday was no different, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals, holding Boston to just five shots in the period.
The Lightning had lost the regular-season series with both the Devils and Bruins, both now eliminated by Tampa Bay. But regardless of whether Tampa Bay faces Washington or Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning will know it had a winning regular-season record against its next opponent.
Tampa Bay went 2-1 against both teams, including a 7-1 win against the Penguins, who trail Washington 3-2 in the series going into Monday's Game 6.
Did not return
The Bruins finished the game without RW David Backes, who was helped off the ice after taking a hit from Tampa Bay's J.T. Miller, who put his shoulder into Backes in the second period. Backes did not return, and Miller said he was "sick to his stomach" seeing the veteran player down on the ice and was not targeting him on the play.
Sunday's win was the Lightning's fifth straight in a Game 5 — Tampa Bay is now 7-3 all-time in Game 5s played at home. … Tampa Bay has won 13 playoff games in a row when scoring three or more goals, including 8-0 this season. … Tampa Bay went 37-30 on faceoffs against Boston on Sunday, with Point (10-4) and Cedric Paquette (6-2) leading the way.
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.