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Vasilevskiy puts on a goaltending clinic while tying franchise record in win

Alex Walworth | Scrum Sports Staff Photographer

Since taking over the starting job in February 2017, we’ve seen Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy put on a goaltending clinic on numerous occasions. He’s been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy the last three seasons, winning it in 2018-19, and will likely be a finalist again this season. When we look back on why he’ll likely be a finalist, Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks will be shining example of his case to bring home another Vezina.

When looking at the shot totals, one will see that Chicago only held a 31-29 edge in that department. However, Vasilevskiy’s net-minding clinic in the second period proved to be the difference, thwarting numerous quality Blackhawks chances and allowing the Lightning (22-6-2, 46 points) to slowly build their lead, coming away with a 4-1 victory over Chicago (14-13-5, 33 points) at Amalie Arena. Following Thursday’s 4-2 win over Chicago and today’s win, the Bolts swept a two-game set with the Hawks while improving to 6-0-1 against them this season. Vasilevskiy turned aside 30 shots in picking up his 11th victory in a row, tying the franchise record for most consecutive wins by a goalie that was originally set in 2018-19 by Louis Domingue. Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde, and Steven Stamkos each scored, while Victor Hedman tallied three assists and Alex Killorn notched two assists of his own.

A fast-paced first period featured excellent chances and quality goaltending

The opening 20 minutes of this contest featured few whistles, lots of back-and-forth action, some quality chances for both teams, and a pair of goaltenders who looked very sharp. Point helped the Lightning break the ice at the 6:21 mark, collecting a loose puck off a backhand shot from Killorn and tucking it past Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban for his 12th of the season. The goal came off a relentless shift by the trio of Killorn, Point, and Stamkos and it was Point’s fifth goal in the last seven games.

However, the Blackhawks proved to be undeterred by the goal, nearly tying it up a few minutes later during a Lightning power play. An ill-advised drop pass by Mikhail Sergachev led to a shorthanded breakaway for Carl Soderberg. Fortunately for the Bolts, Vasilevskiy came up with a huge save. Although the Lightning controlled action before the Point goal, Chicago began tilting the scales in their favor as the period went on. Vasilevskiy stonewalled them on more than one occasion, including a late power play where he came up with three key stops. The Blackhawks held a 12-7 shot advantage, a 19-12 edge in shot attempts, and a 15-11 lead in 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Thanks to Vasilevskiy’s goaltending clinic, the Lightning built on their lead

If you wanted to show someone new to hockey just how strange this sport can be, show them the second period of this game. The Blackhawks held a 14-10 lead in shots on goal during the middle stanza. Shot attempts in the second period? Chicago led that category 24-11. As for 5-on-5 shot attempts, the Hawks held a 16-7 advantage. In addition, the Blackhawks owned an 8-5 advantage in high-danger scoring chances.

So naturally, the Lightning scored three goals and extended their lead to 4-0 because hockey is so incredibly strange.

After Gourde and Alex DeBrincat each got send to the box after cross-checking each other before a faceoff, leading to 4-on-4 hockey. Cirelli extended Tampa Bay’s lead to 2-0 when he completed a gorgeous passing sequence for his ninth of the year. Sergachev completed a slick pass to Cirelli, who got behind the Chicago defense and squeaked one by Subban. With the primary helper, Sergachev earned the 100th assist of his career.

Despite owning a 2-0 lead, the Bolts had their hands full

At the 6:09 mark, Barclay Goodrow took a tripping penalty, which was soon followed by a delay of game penalty on Cernak for clearing the puck over the glass. Despite being two men short for 1:23, the Lightning penalty kill came up big, keeping the Hawks off the scoreboard. Killing off a 5-on-3 typically leads to a big momentum shift for the shorthanded team, but in this case, it appeared to have the opposite effect. The Blackhawks proved to be relentless, keeping up the pressure as the Bolts had plenty of difficulty putting together a clean exit out of the defensive zone. However, Vasilevskiy continued to stymie Chicago and the Lightning eventually pounced on a Blackhawks mistake.

An errant pass led to Gourde collecting the puck in the neutral zone and turning on the afterburners. Cutting to the front of the net, he put a one-handed shot on goal that Subban stopped. However, Gourde picked up the rebound for his 10th of the year and a 3-0 Lightning lead.

Vasilevskiy stops Kane and Stamkos extends the Bolts’ lead

With about three-and-a-half minutes to go in the second period, Patrick Kane got behind Tampa Bay’s defense and took a pass that sprung him on a breakaway. However, it was the latest example of why this simply wasn’t Chicago’s day, as Vasilevskiy showed why he’s a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy again.

With 1:50 to go, Killorn drew a holding penalty on Connor Murphy, leading to a Lightning power play. Stamkos needed only 11 seconds to cash in, blasting home a rebound from a sharp angle in the corner to put the Lightning up 4-0 just before the intermission.

The Lightning clamped down in the third period, outshooting the Blackhawks 12-5 and only allowing one high-danger scoring opportunity. DeBrincat broke up Vasilevskiy’s shutout streak at the 4:50 mark of the final period, but Chicago never came any closer as the Bolts closed this victory out.

Tampa Bay returns to action Sunday afternoon when they host the Florida Panthers at 4 pm at Amalie Arena.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 30 of 31 shots, keeping the Lightning afloat during a second period in which they were heavily outplayed.

2nd Star: Victor Hedman – Three assists in the second period.

3rd Star: Yanni Gourde – His goal in the second period gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead and some breathing room after Chicago had tilted the ice in their favor for much of the middle stanza.

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