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Recap: Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tampa Bay Lightning make St. Louis sing the shut-out blues

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Nikita Kucherov wins the sniper battle against Vladimir Tarasenko.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates after scoring during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues played a very tight and even game, but the top team in the East and NHL came out with a 3-0 win thanks to a couple of very lucky bounces. That’s five wins in a row for the Bolts!

Let’s get started with who played in the game. The Lightning went with 12F/6D but had to swap Cory Conacher in for Ryan Callahan, who was a game-time scratch.

When asked Callahan’s status after the game, Jon Cooper said that he was “fine.” This could mean he’s back next game, or it could mean another six weeks — hard to tell, but hopefully the former.

For the Blues, a couple of top defensemen were out of the game, including captain Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. On forward, first-liner Jaden Schwartz was also on injured reserve.

Here are my stream-of-consciousness notes from the game.

First Period

One of the league’s most deadly shooters, Vladimir Tarasenko, shows his best weapon early after his shot from nearly the middle of the offensive blue-line handcuffs Andrei Vasilevskiy. You don’t see shots with that much strength and accuracy very often at all.

The Lightning have spent a lot of time in the defensive zone so far in this game, with the Blues earning the first six shot attempts of the game. Good thing we have a guy named Vasy between the pipes. He continues to be as solid as ever.

Powerplay

The Bolts earn the first powerplay of the game after Alex Steen goes to the box for tripping. On the powerplay, Steven Stamkos gets one of the better scoring chances, with a hard slap-shot from his home on the left-side half-wall, but goaltender Jake Allen was able to stay in position to stop the puck.

J.T. Brown, who is playing for the first time in three games, was forced to leave the game mid-way through the first period after falling into an open players bench door. Those boards are very hard and have sharp corners. Hope Brownov isn’t hurt too badly.

Brayden Point and Oskar Sundqvist get a little chippy with their sticks after a whistle in the Lightning zone. Both get sent to the box for high-sticking. Point leaves the fray with a bloody lip, and Sundqvist with a lost tooth. Hockey.

1-0

As the period is coming to a close, Tyler Johnson streaks in for a rush chance but decides to circle behind the net, waiting for teammates to assist him. Right on time, he spots bloody-lipped Brayden coming down main street with a load of speed. Point’s initial shot is stopped but he buries the rebound, opening the scoring for the Lightning. The primary assist for Johnson extends his point-streak to five games, including points in seven of eight. He has definitely left his early season struggles in the dust.

After a slow start to the game, the Lightning leave the first with shot attempt advantage (17-11), scoring chances advantage (13-7), and tied shots (6-6). The goal was just icing on the cake, a great way to close out an otherwise close-checking first.

Second Period

Dmitrij Jaskin catches the Lightning on a bad line change and gets free for a partial breakaway. With Mikhail Sergachev sprawled all over Jaskin, Vasy is forced to make an awkward stop.

St. Louis has a deep, mobile defense-core who have been jumping up into rushes. The Lightning wingers have been having trouble keeping track of players like Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, and Colton Parayko who have left the point and come all the way up to the faceoff circles for scoring chances.

Nine minutes in, a St. Louis Blues player shoots the puck around the boards from the neutral zone but it deflects off the curved potion of the glass near the boards and heads straight for the Bolts net. Vasy, who was heading towards the back of the net to retireve the puck, has to scramble back and make not one, but two saves from his back. The second save coming from a Blues forechecker.

Similar to the Blues, the Lightning attempt to activate their defensemen, particularly Victor Hedman and Sergachev, to try and out-number the defense of the Blues. The downside of this tactic is displayed very obviously after VLADIMIR TARASENKO finds himself and a teammate away on a 2-on-1 not once, but twice in a four-minute span. Tarasenko passes to Vladimir Sobotka, whose feed is blocked by Anton Stralman. The second time, Tarasenko fans on the shot, something I, personally, haven’t ever seen happen before.

Powerplay

Steen gets booked once again, this time for hooking. The best powerplay in the league heads to another two minutes with the man-advantage. Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov both get chances but fail to convert.

Third Period

Dan Girardi loses a battle behind the net to Patrik Berglund but as Berglund is turning away from Girardi, he high-sticks the veteren defender. That’s a penalty. Third time’s the charm?

The second unit comes onto the ice first. Sergachev is able to get off a hard shot from the point, it is deflected but lands right in front of Johnson, who forces Allen to make an impressive positional save.

Cedric Paquette gets pushed to the ice along the boards in the offensive zone and isn’t happy about it. In retaliation, he slashes Jordan Schmaltz and, unfortunately, is noticed by the referees. Lightning head to their first penalty kill of the game.

On the kill, Tyler Johnson is able to win a puck battle near the point and streaks away on a breakaway. He dekes backhand as he crosses from the right side of Allen’s net to the left side but is unable to get the angle right on his shot, sending it wide.

Eight minutes to play in the game, the Blues’ first line dominates the Lightning’s first line in front of Vasy. Tarasenko gets the puck in the slot, avoids a sliding Hedman to pass to a wide open Sobotka at the side of the net. Vasilevskiy is completely out of position and is forced to watch Sobotka...... shoot the puck across the face of the goal. You can’t get more unlucky than that.

2-0

Nikita Kucherov scores off a snipe from the slot. This is a recording. Remember when I talked about there not being many players who can shoot a wrister quite like Tarasenko? Kucherov is one of those guys. In terms of wrist shots, it’s Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel, Tarasenko, Kucherov, end of list.

Not to mention, with the goal, Kucherov ties Steven Stamkos for the league lead in points with 42.

With less than three minutes to go, Cory Conacher is able to get away on a 2-on-1 with Alex Killorn but his pass is blocked by Colton Parayko who drops his massive body to the ice. Going back the other way, Jaskin streaks down the right wing and gets a good shot off. Vasy is able to squeeze the puck under his armpit, keeping the score at 2-0.

Like in the beginning of the game, Vasilevskiy is forced to stand tall against the Blues, who are making a last ditch push for a goal or two. With the Blues net pulled, Vasy makes a couple huge saves on both Tarasenko and Paul Stastny.

3-0

Tyler Johnson notches the empty netter, sealing the deal.

Post-Game

Vasilevskiy wins the goalie battle against Jake Allen.

Kucherov wins the sniper battle against Vlad Tarasenko.

Stamkos wins the captain battle over... uhh, nevermind.

21-year-old Brayden Point now has 13 goals on the year, including the game-winner tonight. Tyler Johnson had this to say about his young linemate.

“I was kind of thinking about a lot of different things, thinking about the shot but didn’t really feel like I had anything. Parayko took that crease away from me, so I wasn’t able to kind of jam it in. Went around the net and thought maybe about a wraparound, but it wasn’t there. Then I saw Pointer coming in. I was lucky that he was there. He made a great shot and got it in.”

23-year-old Vasilevskiy earned himself the first star of the night with a 32-save performance for his third shutout of the season and seventh of his young career. He credited his team for the shutout, a big difference from his last performance in St. Louis.

“It’s a pretty good feeling, especially last year, I played a tougher game, gave up like four goals and it wasn’t my best game. It’s a good feeling, but as I said, guys played very well. Our team deserved the shutout.”

Injury updates, J.T. Brown was able to return to the game and ended up playing 8:13. Ryan Callahan doesn’t appear to be injured, he “just couldn’t go tonight.”

See you there, Tony.

Until then, Arizona Coyotes are up next for the Bolts, as they continue their four-game Western Conference road trip. Puck drop is at 9 PM Eastern on Thursday.