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Andrei Vasilevskiy wins his season debut as Lightning rout Hurricanes

The goaltender, who had offseason back surgery, stops 22 of 24 shots in his first NHL start in nearly seven months.
 
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) tracks the puck during the first period of Friday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) tracks the puck during the first period of Friday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]
Published Nov. 25, 2023|Updated Nov. 25, 2023

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Lightning had one of the most accomplished goalies in the NHL back in their net and lots of other achievements to go with it Friday night.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in his season debut, and Tampa Bay got a hat trick and two assists from Brayden Point in an 8-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

“Guys played unbelievably in front of me,” Vasilevskiy said. “Lots of blocked shots, obviously the goal support is remarkable. It couldn’t be more perfect for a first game.”

Nikita Kucherov had two goals and four assists for just the second six-point game in Lightning history. The first was by defenseman Doug Crossman in a 6-5 overtime win against the Islanders on Nov. 7, 1992, the franchise’s first season. Crossman had three goals and three assists.

Steven Stamkos, Brandon Hagel and Luke Glendening also scored for the Lightning, which won for the fourth time in five games and hold a five-game points streak.

The Lightning's Brayden Point (21) puts the puck in the net behind Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) with teammate Nikita Kucherov (86) nearby during the third period.
The Lightning's Brayden Point (21) puts the puck in the net behind Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) with teammate Nikita Kucherov (86) nearby during the third period. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]

Vasilevskiy, a past winner of the Vezina (league’s top goalie) and Conn Smyth (playoff MVP) trophies, was playing his first NHL game since April 29 following offseason back surgery. The Lightning announced earlier in the day he would be in the net for the team’s opener of a three-game road stretch.

“He was good,” Kucherov said, “like he never missed a game.”

Vasilevskiy settled in by stopping seven shots in the first period, when the Lightning were outshot 8-1.

“We didn’t spend much time in our zone,” he said, pointing out the games are much more challenging than practices. “Just a great job by our team.”

It was just the second time in Tampa Bay’s last 13 games an opponent was held to fewer than three goals.

“He’s one of the best players on our team if not the best,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, calling the goalie’s return a momentum swing to the season. “When you have the guys you’re used to having, it definitely helps.”

Despite the Lightning’s huge goal total, defense had Cooper’s attention.

“I like the fact that we held them to 12 even-strength shots,” he said.

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) is congratulated by Jonas Johansson (31) following the team's win over the Hurricanes.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) is congratulated by Jonas Johansson (31) following the team's win over the Hurricanes. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]

The Lightning scored three power-play goals in the first six minutes of the second period. Those were Tampa Bay’s first three shots of the period after putting the puck on goal only once in the first.

The Lightning became the first NHL team to score eight or more goals on 15 or fewer shots on goal in a single game (regular season or playoffs), according to OptaSTATS. Shots on goal were first officially tracked in 1955-56.

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“We didn’t generate a ton of chances,” Point said. “When we did, we capitalized. … We were making passes on the tape and using our speed.”

Stefan Noesen and Michael Bunting scored for the Hurricanes, who had a two-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in eight home games this season. Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta stopped six of 14 shots.

Penalties punished the Hurricanes, who were 1-for-6 on the penalty kill.

“We played how we were supposed to in the first period, but we beat ourselves,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You can’t take those kind of penalties.”

Stamkos has scored in four straight games and has nine goals this season. Kucherov has 15 goals and an NHL-leading 35 points.

By BOB SUTTON Associated Press

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