Connect with us


Efficient offense, timely saves help Vasilevskiy set franchise wins mark

Alex Walworth | The Scrum Sports

Beginning a stretch of 14 out of 18 at home, the Tampa Bay Lightning sought to carry over their gutsy effort from their win in Chicago into Saturday’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks at Amalie Arena. When we look back at this game, the final score would suggest a Lightning blowout. However, this contest was anything but that for the majority of the evening. In fact, this turned into a classic case of a team creating fewer chances than the opposition, but being remarkably efficient with the opportunities that presented themselves.

In the end, that efficient shooting percentage and some timely saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy through the first two periods ended up being the difference in this game.

Vasilevskiy turned aside 36 out of 38 shots and 13 Lightning skaters registered a point at least a point as Tampa Bay (11-7-2, 24 points) coming away with a 6-2 victory over the Ducks (10-11-3, 23 points). With the victory, Vasilevskiy now has 132 victories in a Lightning uniform, eclipsing Ben Bishop’s mark for the most wins by a goalie in franchise history. On top of that, Brayden Point built on his impressive play from Thursday’s game, tallying two goals for his second multi-goal game of the season and first since October 10 in Toronto. Anthony Cirelli finished with a goal and an assist, increasing his goal-scoring streak to four games, tying a career high.

Victor Hedman finished the night with two assists, passing Brad Richards for fourth place in franchise history in assists. In addition, his point streak now sits at seven games, tying a career best. Alex Killorn also finished with an assist, giving him points in seven straight games, which also ties his career high as well. Nikita Kucherov ended the night with a goal and an assist despite some uneven moments. Even Ondrej Palat got in on the act with his 100th career goal late in the game. This all occurred without Steven Stamkos, who missed the game after suffering a lower-body injury in the first period in Chicago. Tonight’s effort wasn’t always the smoothest, but the team found a way to convert their chances.

Strange bounces highlight a choppy and sloppy period for the Lightning

While the first intermission shot counter showed 13-8 in favor of the Ducks, don’t let that fool you. The ice turned out to be heavily tilted for the Ducks in the opening 20 minutes. Anaheim spent large chunks of time in Tampa Bay’s zone, creating scoring chances and keeping Vasilevskiy relatively busy. While the high-danger chances at all strengths were 5-3 for the Ducks (according to Natural Stat Trick), the total scoring chances at all strengths stood at 17-6 in favor of Anaheim. On top of that, Anaheim attempted 25 shots to the Lightning’s 14. At one point, the Ducks took eight straight shots on goal before the Bolts’ line of Yanni Gourde, Cedric Paquette, and Pat Maroon ended that streak. The game had slowed down to Anaheim’s preferred pace of slow and choppy, with a lot of whistles.

Despite spending a lot of time in their end of the ice, Tampa Bay had a bounce go their way

At the 16:08 mark. Cory Conacher worked the puck back to Jan Rutta at the point. Rutta fired a shot from long distance that Ducks goalie Ryan Miller (who stopped 21 of 27 shots) deflected with his arm, but the puck dropped down into the crease. Point was on point, slamming home the loose puck to put Tampa Bay up 1-0. At 17:12, Erik Gudbranson took a tripping penalty, handing the Bolts a chance to increase their lead with a power play chance. Unfortunately for them, a strange bounce went against them.

During that power play, Kucherov raced back for a loose puck with Anaheim’s Derek Grant close by. Kucherov chipped it off his backhand off the boards, but the puck hit one of the officials. As a result, the puck bounced to Grant, who skated into high slot and beat Vasilevskiy for an unassisted shorthanded goal, tying the game 1-1 with exactly two minutes left in the period.

Few shots, but plenty of finish from an efficient Bolts offense

During the second period, the Lightning’s shot problem didn’t go away. While the Ducks continued to outpace the Lightning in terms of shots (15-5 in the period), Tampa Bay managed to create more high-danger opportunities. On top of that, the Bolts would find a way to cash in on those excellent chances.

Kucherov made up for his ill-fated clearing attempt on Grant’s goal when he converted a beautiful behind-the-net feed from Cirelli, scoring his seventh of the season to put the Bolts up 2-1 at 5:28. Killorn’s secondary assist on the play kept his point streak going. Soon after, Anaheim found themselves on the power play, where the Lightning literally got a bad break. Ryan McDonagh’s stick broke, leading Cirelli to give him his stick. The power play effectively became a 5-on-3 and the Ducks maintained control in the Bolts’ zone for about 90 seconds. Moments after the power play ended, Rickard Rakell finished a stellar passing sequence by zipping a shot by Vasilevskiy to tie it 2-2. Despite the goal, the successful effort on the penalty kill before it seemed to galvanize the Lightning.

Point and Maroon lead the way going into the intermission

As Hampus Lindholm served a penalty for hooking, the Lightning continued their efficiency with the chances they earned. Soon after, they took advantage of this particular power play chance. Vasilevskiy left the puck for Hedman, who began a rush and slid a beautiful pass to Point, springing him for a Grade A chance off the rush. Point cut down the right wing and fired a shot that Miller got a piece of, but it wasn’t enough, trickling into the net for a 3-2 Tampa Bay lead at 12:39.

Only 1:46 later, the line of Paquette, Maroon, and Gourde, along with Mikhail Sergachev, continued their recent run of stellar play. While applying pressure in the Ducks’ zone, the puck ended up with Sergachev on the point. He took a shot that got tipped by Paquette and propelled through traffic on the Anaheim net. Miller made the save, but Maroon did what he does best: parked himself in front of the net and whacked the rebound home for his fifth goal of the season and a 4-2 Lightning lead. Tampa Bay wasn’t creating many shots, but when they did, they were going into the net.

The Lightning’s quantity of shots finally matched the efficient quality

Galvanized by the last two goals of the second period, the Lightning took command in the final 20 minutes. Cirelli made it 5-2 when he poked home a loose puck in the crease after Miller stopped a rocket of a shot by Kucherov, but couldn’t control the puck. Palat put the finishing touches on this one with a power play tally of his own with 2:33 remaining. In the final period, the Lightning had finally found the quantity to go with the quality of their scoring chances. As a result, Tampa Bay emerged with its second consecutive victory.

The Bolts continue the homestand on Monday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres at 7 pm.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 36 of 38 shots, becoming the Lightning’s all-time leader in wins by a goalie.

2nd Star: Brayden Point – Scored two goals, including the eventual game-winner with just under eight minutes left in the second period.

3rd Star: Anthony Cirelli – Finished with a goal and an assist, extending his goal-scoring streak to four games.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *