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Andrei Vasilevskiy helps Lightning steal one from Bruins in overtime

Tampa Bay fights off constant pressure in their end throughout the game but comes away with 3-2 victory.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy (88), Boris Katchouk (13), Gabriel Fortier (82) and Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after defeating the Boston Bruins in overtime during an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy (88), Boris Katchouk (13), Gabriel Fortier (82) and Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after defeating the Boston Bruins in overtime during an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]
Published Dec. 5, 2021
Updated Dec. 5, 2021

BOSTON — We’ve seen Andrei Vasilevskiy at his best when it means the most — during the postseason — so when rating the Lightning goaltender’s best performances, it’s difficult to rank any regular-season game among them when they include five shutouts in postseason-series clinchers.

Still, considering the volume of shots and the quality of scoring chances he faced Saturday night against the Bruins, and the way he saved the Lightning throughout arguably their flattest performance of the season, Vasilevskiy had one of his best performances in the Lightning’s 3-2 overtime win at TD Garden.

“He just stole us one, there’s no doubt about that,” said captain Steven Stamkos, whose goal 1:31 into overtime allowed Tampa Bay to leave Boston with two points they probably didn’t deserve.

“(The Bruins) played well. We didn’t,” Stamkos said. “And sometimes the wrong team wins because of the goaltender, and that was probably the case (Saturday).”

Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy plays against the Boston Bruins in overtime during an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy plays against the Boston Bruins in overtime during an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]

On a night the Lightning couldn’t keep the puck out of their end, allowing 81 shot attempts, Vasilevskiy stopped the first 25 shots on goal he faced and 37 of 39 overall. But it wasn’t just the number of shots Vasilevskiy faced. He withstood an offensive onslaught from the Bruins, who seemed to be picking off pucks at will and shooting lasers at the net.

As the Lightning (14-5-4) opened a five-game road trip with the first of back-to-back games, they were happy to come out with a win and move on to their next game, Sunday in Philadelphia

“In an 82-game league, it’s hard to play your best, and sometimes you have some stinkers, and (Saturday) was a stinker,” coach Jon Cooper said. “The goalie was on, which we needed.”

The Lightning took a 2-0 lead on Taylor Raddysh’s first NHL goal, their first shorthanded score of the season, in the first period and Ondrej Palat’s pass across the slot to Stamkos that hit off a Bruins skate and gift wrapped itself into the net in the second.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with teammates after scoring in overtime during an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with teammates after scoring in overtime during an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]

“I know we had the two-goal lead, but it didn’t really feel that way,” Stamkos said. “(The Bruins) pressed us … and you hope it’s just kind of a one-off game where we didn’t have our legs and we weren’t really making a lot of plays.”

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The Lightning officially had 13 giveaways, but that didn’t accurately depict their struggles getting the puck out of their end. And they couldn’t mount any sustainable offensive pressure until the final six minutes of regulation.

Boston tied the score at 2 when forward Curtis Lazar roofed a backhand shot past Vasilevskiy 4:44 into the third.

The Lightning went through a stretch of 13 minutes, 32 seconds — mostly through the beginning of the third period — without a shot. But they began to build some momentum late in the third. They had seven of their 25 shots on goal in the final 4:51 of regulation.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) and Boston Bruins' Derek Forbort (28) watch as the shot by Ondrej Palat gets past Jeremy Swayman (1) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) and Boston Bruins' Derek Forbort (28) watch as the shot by Ondrej Palat gets past Jeremy Swayman (1) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]

“I think that actually helped us going into overtime,” Cooper said. “I think urgency kicked in. We managed the puck. You have a couple offensive shifts there, and now (the Bruins are) getting tired and we’re taking over the game. But for the 54 minutes before that, it was the other way around.”

In overtime, Bruins forward David Pastrnak had a breakaway that brought the crowd to its feet in anticipation, but Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev caught him from behind and with his stick prevented Pastrnak from getting off a good shot as Vasilevskiy sprawled across the front of the net.

Sergachev then collected the puck at the goal line and sent a pass to Stamkos entering the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-1 the other way.

Stamkos rifled a slap shot from the right dot past goaltender Jeremy Swayman.

“I had a lot of time to think about what to do and didn’t really want to risk it passing … the way things were going for us,” Stamkos said. “Our chances were few and far between. So I just wanted to blast one from there.”

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