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Quick-strike scoring rolls Maple Leafs in Vasilevskiy’s return

Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

During a seven game winning streak the Tampa Bay Lightning captain has really been heating up. During the streak Steven Stamkos has recorded eight goals and four assists including a three goal performance against the New York Rangers on Monday night. 

Tampa FL – Not since mid November have the Tampa Bay Lightning had their number one goalie, but you couldn’t tell by their record over that stretch. While on a road trip mid way through last month Andrei Vasilevskiy fractured his foot during a team practice. While the Lightning’s number one netminder was gone back up Louis Domingue kept the crease warm. Over the course of the 14 games Vasilevskiy missed Domingue compiled a 11-2 record and Eddie Pasquale notched his first NHL victory in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings, posting 19 saves on 24 shots. Tonight in his first game back, Vasilevskiy will face the Toronto Maple Leafs the team that trails the Lightning in the standings in the Atlantic division.

Joseph out

To start the game it was announced that Lightning rookie Mathieu Joseph would not be playing in the game due to a lower body injury. This is the first game the young forward has missed this season. During the 32 games he has played in he has compiled 13 points (9g-4a). While not much is known he is reported to be day to day. With Joseph out Adam Erne slotted back into the lineup, since Ondrej Palat returned Erne has been having a tough time getting into games.

Top two Atlantic teams battle

While the Lightning lead the Atlantic division with 49 points through 32 games, the Maple Leafs are right on their heels with 43 points. If the standings stay the way they are the Lightning and Maple Leafs could face off in the second round of the playoffs if both teams win. Early in the first period Kasperi Kapanen put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 off a Nikita Kucherov defensive zone mistake. Just about two minutes later Cedric Paquette would head to the box for a high sticking penalty. For most teams that would mean they could be down 2-0, but not the Lightning and not young center Anthony Cirelli. Once again the young forward would get a goal while the team was shorthanded. That is his third shorthanded goal of the season, that’s his fifth goal in the last four games.

Call goes the Lightning’s way

Almost one full period after the Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead, Kucherov would give the Lightning a 2-1 lead from his favorite spot on the ice. At first the goal was whistled down, but Lightning forward JT Miller would let the referees know that the puck crossed the line. After a lengthy review with the league office, the call was reversed and the goal was credited to Kucherov for his 13th of the season. In his last 15 games Kucherov has notched 28 points.

Lightning once again show quick strike ability

With the 2nd period winding down, Victor Hedman would pass the puck into the neutral zone. after it bounced around a little bit, Cirelli would get control and skate the puck into the zone. He would finish the play by passing into the slot where an awaiting Alex Killorn would bury a puck past Frederik Andersen for a 3-1 lead with :35 left in the second. No sooner had Lightning PA announcer Paul Porter announced the Killorn goal Tyler Johnson would get in on the action with 0.01 left on the clock for a 4-1 Lightning lead.

Vasilevskiy shows no signs of rust

After allowing a goal at 5:26 of the first period Vasilevskiy was nothing short of perfect. After missing 14 games with a fractured foot many thought he would get a brief conditioning stint, but after seeing him tonight it’s quite clear that wasn’t needed. The Maple Leafs peppered the returning goalie with shot after shot, but only one was able to get through. When he made his 45th save of the game, Vasilevskiy set a franchise home game record with the most saves ever in Lightning history. He would end the game by tying the most saves in Lightning history with 48. His solid game was enough to get the Bolts a 4-1 win in his return and extend their winning streak to eight games.

Up Next

Sunday night the Lightning will head north of the border to start a Canadian road trip against the Vancouver Canucks.

3 Stars of the Game

3rd Star – Nikita Kucherov: This could’ve went to JT Miller, but after a 1 goal 1 assist night he gets the third star.

2nd Star – Anthony Cirelli: 1 goal (shorthanded) and 1 assist to extend his goal streak to five goals in the last four games.

1st Star – Andrei Vasilevskiy: Returned from injury and stopped a franchise tying record of 48 shots.



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