After Tuesdays 9-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered Thursday in search of their ninth consecutive victory. Standing in the way of this goal was a team on a streak of its own. The Pacific Division leading Arizona Coyotes had won 4 straight entering Thursday’s contest. Tampa Bay also looked to continue closing the gap between themselves and the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings. The second place Bolts trailed the division leading Bruins by seven points entering Thursday’s action, with two games at hand.
Vasilevskiy’s early stops give way to Bolts’ lead
Just seconds into the game, Steven Stamkos could not connect into an open net on an early scoring chance. After that missed opportunity, it was Arizona that generated the best scoring chances throughout the game’s first 15 minutes. Andrei Vasilevskiy had to make big saves on Taylor Hall and Clayton Keller to keep the Coyotes from taking an early lead.
But the reigning Vezina Trophy winner stood tall, and it was the Lightning that broke the scoreless tie. At the 15:06 mark of the period, Alex Killorn cashed in his 18th goal of the season by jamming home a rebounded shot from Pat Maroon. Killorn’s net front presence and awareness paid off again as it has many times already this season. He is now one goal away from matching his career high of 19 in a season and is well on his way to the first 20 goal season of his career. His tally tonight also gives him 9 goals in his last 11 games.
When asked about Killorn’s play during his postgame press conference, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said, “He’s been doing it all year for us. He’s such a big part of our team because he’s on the power play and the penalty kill. He gets big minutes with our team so to have that offensive side come out I know it sure makes him feel good but it’s good for our team.
17 can't stop, won't stop. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aB6S3y2DhS
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 10, 2020
A little over three minutes later, Tampa Bay increased their lead. This time, it was Mikhail Sergachev cashing in on a 3 on 2 rush. Sergachev took a Cedric Paquette pass and banked the shot in off the skate of an Arizona player. The goal marked number eight this season for Sergachev.
Bolts crank up the energy in the second
After weathering an early shorthanded situation thanks to a Bradyon Coburn unsportsmanlike penalty, the Lightning got to work bringing pressure into the Coyotes’ zone. Nikita Kucherov fired home a wrister from the right circle off a Brayden Point pass to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-0.
However, neither Kucherov nor the Lightning were quite done in the second period. Less than three minutes after his first tally, Kucherov found the back of the net again. Steven Stamkos picked up a rebound of a Jan Rutta center point shot in front of Arizona goalie Adin Hill. Stamkos dished the puck over to his right and Kucherov buried the puck behind Hill to increase the Lightning lead to 4-0.
The assist marked the 400th of Stamkos’ career, and the Bolts were comfortably ahead after 2 periods of play.
Offense keeps the pressure up and Vasilevskiy closes the deal
Tampa Bay continued to apply pressure throughout the remainder of the game. Alex Killorn narrowly missed a chance to tack on a second goal when he connected with the right post of the Arizona net. Erik Cernak similarly found that same post on a slapshot attempt later in the third period.
Lightning penalty killers were called upon again after a Cedric Paquette tripping penalty, and again they came up with a successful kill. In total on 2 Arizona power play chances, Tampa Bay only allowed 1 shot. The Lightning finally got their own chance with the man advantage at 12:44 of the period. Taylor Hall picked up an interference call after a rough knee to knee takedown of Ondrej Palat. Palat left the ice in noticeable pain after the hit. A skirmish ensued after the whistle, resulting in canceling roughing minors assessed to Hall and Tyler Johnson.
As a result, Tampa Bay earned 2 minutes of power play time. The Lightning were able to generate shots but were ultimately unable to convert on their lone power play of the night. They went on to close out their 9th consecutive victory by a score of 4-0.
Vasilevskiy earns first shutout of the season
In what was one of their most complete games of the season in all phases, the Bolts did not face many scoring chances. The defensive effort in limiting those chances speaks volumes given the fact that they are currently playing without Ryan McDonagh. And, while largely uncontested for the majority of 60 minutes, the story of the night was Andrei Vasilevskiy’s first shutout of the 2019-2020 season.
Coming off his Vezina winning season, Vasilevskiy faced a great deal of scrutiny when the team was struggling early on this year. It was only fitting that he earn his first shutout during this winning streak. This shutout also marked the 19th of his career.
After the game, Vasilevskiy was asked what it meant to get his first shutout of the year.
“It’s been a while. We had some games in the past when I could have had shutouts as well but we’d give up a late goal every time. But tonight I thought we played perfectly and the whole team deserved it.”
Steven Stamkos echoed a similar sentiment, calling this game the team’s “best overall performance of the year.”
The Lightning will head to Philadelphia on Saturday night to face the Flyers. It will be the first game of a weekend back to back.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy (Shutout, 25 saves)
- Nikita Kucherov (2 Goals)
- Alex Killorn (1 Goal)
For postgame reaction from the locker room and coach Jon Cooper’s press conference, check out our YouTube channel.
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