TAMPA — Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy makes so many remarkable, game-altering saves that sometimes they can be overlooked. But there is no question that his robbery of Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in overtime of Saturday’s 3-2 win is among his best.
Things move fast in the 3-on-3 extra period, and the pace was turned up a notch against a Panthers team that relies on its speed. But right when Vasilevskiy looked beaten, he made what might be his best save of the season.
Before Lightning center Brayden Point scored for the win, the Lightning and Panthers exchanged back-to-back breakaways.
Defenseman Victor Hedman’s backhanded shot was turned away by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, then Florida forward Aleksander Barkov collected the puck and the Panthers were off to the races, creating a 3-on-2 opportunity.
Barkov dropped the puck back to forward Sam Bennett, who charged through the left circle and drew Vasilevskiy to the edge of the crease before sliding a saucer pass to Ekblad, who was approaching the near post.
Ekblad had an open net, but Vasilevskiy slid across the crease, spreading into full extension to close the gap. Ekblad shot high in an attempt to get above Vasilevskiy’s left pad, but Vasilevskiy swatted the puck away with an impressive glove save.
“That was incredible,” Point said. “It’s a 3-on-2, they make a sauce pass, Ekblad puts it upstairs and (Vasilevskiy is) able to come across with the glove. I don’t know if (Ekblad) can do much more. ‘Vasy’ makes those seem routine, but they’re definitely not. It saved the game for us, and we got two points because of it.”
Even Lightning coach Jon Cooper had to take a second look at Vasilevskiy’s save to truly appreciate it.
“Your goalie gives you the chance to win the game, and that’s when you want your guy,” Cooper said. “I’ve had the luxury of watching (Vasilevskiy) for a long time. When I saw it live, I wasn’t sure if Ekblad got (the puck) up, so I thought, ‘Okay, he was there.’ But watch it after the game, you’re like, ‘Wow, he got it up and Vasy got across there with his glove.’ It was a big save.”
Bogosian makes immediate impact
In the Lightning’s first full game without injured top right-shot defenseman Erik Cernak, they got a boost from defenseman Zach Bogosian’s timely return.
Bogosian on Saturday played his first game in more than a month after injuring a foot on a blocked shot in the first period of the Lightning’s season opener Oct. 12. He filled Cernak’s spot on the right side, pairing with Ryan McDonagh.
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“It’s one of those things you’ve got to battle through,” Hedman said of playing without Cernak, out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. " ‘Bogo’ hasn’t played in awhile, but I think he played great (Saturday). He stayed patient in his game and made the easy plays and played a lot of minutes.”
Bogosian played more minutes Saturday than he usually does, logging 18:01 of ice time. He made a nice defensive play to break up a 2-on-1 breakaway early in the first period, patiently waiting out the play and using his stick to break up a cross-crease pass following a turnover in the neutral zone.
Bogosian earned the secondary assist on Hedman’s second-period goal to pick up his first point of the season.
The Lightning also got back defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who played his third-most minutes of the season (23:23) in his return from a two-game suspension for an illegal head hit.
Katchouk sparks fourth line
The game could be a breakthrough for the Lightning’s new fourth line of Boris Katchouk, Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh.
Katchouk returned from injury — the Lightning scratched Alex Barre-Boulet — and played in his first game since Oct. 25 in Buffalo.
He earned the primary assist on Hedman’s goal and played a physical game, with three of his team-high four hits in the third period.
Colton, who had seen his ice time diminish recently, played 13:53, his most in the past five games. Colton also rebounded from a rocky game in the faceoff circle Tuesday against the Hurricanes, winning 13 of 21 (62 percent).
“That line was excellent,” Cooper said. “They competed. They were on pucks.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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