The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Nashville Predators 3 – 0 as Andrei Vasilevskiy shuts down the Predators in Music City, He orchestrated his fourth shutout this season over one of the league’s hottest teams. It was a symphony of brilliant saves that left the Predators singing the blues.
At the start of today, the Nashville Predators were solidly in 4th place in the Central Division. This was a result of the fact that they have won 9 of their last 10 games. No matter the outcome in tonight’s game, the Predators would still be in that final divisional playoff spot. They played like one of the hottest teams in the league.
For the Lightning, they were stumbling into this game. Sure, they won their last game Thursday in Columbus but they are only 3-5 in their last eight games coming into this game. While Nashville started the game with an excellent scoring chance 30 seconds after the puck drop, it was the Lightning that opened the scoring.
Ross Colton, formerly of the RPM Line, took a great pass from Yanni Gourde and went in all alone on Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Deftly putting the puck in Rinne’s five hole for the first goal of the game. That’s now seven goals for Colton in 14 games and four goals in his last five games. .
Despite taking the lead, the Lightning were thoroughly out played by the Predators. Nashville out shot Tampa 18 to 5. They had more hits (10 to 3), more blocks (6/3) but headed into the first intermission trailing by the Colton goal. If Andrei Vasilevskiy had not stood on his head, the home team could have been up by three or four goals on those 18 shots. As it was in this opening period, Vasilevskiy shuts down everything Nashville threw his way. Would this be a harbinger of things to come?
Andrei Vasilevskiy Shuts Down Everything
Lately, the second period has been an issue for the Lightning. In the previous eight games, they have been outscored 14-4 in the second period. Unlike the first period, the Lightning actually looked like they had a little bit of life as the middle period began. Maintaining the puck, putting some shots on Rinne. Still, the Predators kept pushing.
In the first half of the second period, Nashville could have easily swung the game back into their favor, Ryan Ellis appeared to put a puck past Vasilevskiy to tie the game. Coach Jon Cooper of the Lightning challenged the goal. It was ruled offsides so Tampa and Vasilevskiy maintained their slim one goal lead.
Minutes later, Matthias Ekholm blasted a shot that Vasilevskiy only heard as it whizzed by his head only to hit the crossbar. Sometimes it’s the goalie’s best friend, sometimes it’s their worst enemy. Tonight any Russian speaking fans knew the posts were Vasilevskiy’s “podroogas”. Obviously, he should be one of the Vezina finalists. Tonight was the type of performance that has engravers begin their work on that particular trophy. It appeared that his only goal tonight was to prevent any Nashville goals. Mission accomplished. Could Vasilevskiy continue this stellar play in the third period?
Not Going Down Easy
Witnessing this game and one could easily see why the Predators have been winning so many games lately. They were relentless, throwing the kitchen sink at Vasilevskiy to no avail. Their work in the Lightning zone was keeping the pressure on the visitors, especially Vasilevskiy. As the final period went on, it was clear the home team was intent on scoring. Down two goals, getting one past Vasilevskiy would cut the lead in half and shift the momentum to their side of the ice. Not tonight. Not with Vasilevskiy on his game. Maybe it was the lift the team got with the earlier announced trade that landed defenseman David Savard from Detroit via Columbus. Ultimately, Vasilevskiy proves he belongs in any conversation about the best goalies in the world.
As the period unfolded, there was no quit in Nashville. They ended up with 36 shots on net and they came from every conceivable angle. Vasilevskiy was up to the task. Every single Predator shot, he saved. He controlled rebounds, he stop a couple of breakaways. He was in that zone.
With a little more than two minutes remaining in the game, Nashville pulled Rinne. The Lightning stood firm and Gourde put in an empty net goal at 19:14 of the third period.
#1 – Andrei Vasilevskiy – Fourth shut out of the season, probably deserves all three stars.
#2 – Yanni Gourde – One goal, one assist and energizing his team.
#3 – Ross Colton – One goal, his fourth game winning goal in the 14 games he’s appeared in,
Final game of the season against Nashville on Tuesday night. Puck drops at 8 pm.
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