The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely dominated the Dallas Stars. And when I say dominated, I mean that. At 5v5, the Lightning controlled 72.04% of shot attempts. They owned 66.64% of the expected goals at 5v5 too. By expected goals, the Lightning should have scored 2.71 goals at 5v5 while allowing 1.36. Especially against a team that came in as the best defensive team in the NHL, those are impressive numbers.
But what this game came down to was goaltending. Anton Khudobin was spectacular in net. He let in three goals, but only one came at even strength and the other two on the power play. Remember that 2.71 expected goals for the Lightning? That means that Khudobin saved 1.71 goals more than expected at 5v5. The two power play goals that beat him were good shots. Mikhail Sergachev took a point shot from the center and got it high enough. Khudobin got his shoulder on it, but it wasn’t enough and it stayed under the bar to go in. Alex Killorn’s power play goal was a beautiful slap pass to the back side by Nikita Kucherov that Khudobin had no chance at stopping. The third goal was a deflection off of Ondrej Palat at the front of the net that again gave Khudobin little chance at stopping it.
But when he saw the puck, and had a real chance at it, he stopped everything other than Sergachev’s goal. He was good. He was great even. He had to make 45 saves and had a .938 SV% on the night. That’s really good by any measure. It’s just another example of a back up goalie coming in against the Lightning and be a brick wall with only a couple holes in it that you have to hit precisely to get one past them.
Andrei Vasilevskiy on the other hand was decidedly not good. He only face 20 shots on the night and four made it past him for a .800 SV%. Jon Cooper in his post game press conference said it’s a Team Sport and he’s not going to just blame the goalie here. And he’s right. There are always things the skaters could have done in front of him to prevent a shot that ended up in the back of the net.
But you know that Vasilevskiy wants a couple of those goals back. He made the initial save on two of them, only to see the puck tumble past him and end up in the net. Let’s take a closer look at the four goals. We’ll look at not only what Vasilevskiy did, but what the skaters could have done better on in front of him.
The first goal came on the power play and was the first goal of the game. The initial shot/pass came from the top of the left wing circle. It wasn’t much of a shot in and of itself by Tyler Seguin, but it found Radulov’s stick. McDonagh didn’t box Radulov out from the front of the net and failed to use his stick to negate Radulov’s stick. The puck hit Vasilevskiy’s glove or wrist and then tumbled down on to his right pad and kept tumbling over and had enough energy left to slide into the net. Redirects are always difficult to handle and this one handcuffed Vasilevskiy. He was in good position to stop it, but the puck just hit the right spot on him to keep bouncing around and go past him. I would put this one down to McDonagh not doing enough on Radulov and a little bit of a bad puck luck.
The second goal came with just over two minutes left in the second period when the Lightning were up 3-1. The play started in the offensive zone when a pass went into the corner for the Stars to pick up. They immediately rushed up the ice. Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli were gassed and headed to the bench while the Stars went on a four on two rush with John Klingberg jumping into the play.
On the rush, the Lightning defense collapsed backwards. Both defensemen were half way to the top of the circles by the time the Stars hit the blue line. Alex Killorn was trying to harass the puck carrier through the neutral zone, but he was also out of gas towards the end of a shift and wasn’t able to put much speed on to keep up with the puck carrier.
Because they got caught outnumbered, the Lightning defense had a choice of either challenging at the blue line and possibly allowing a two-on-none against Vasilevskiy, or collapse back and allow them to enter. They chose the latter and were two thirds of the way to the top of the circles by the time the Stars crossed the blue line. The pass went out to the right wing boards for Klingberg. Killorn still coming in on the backcheck tried to get his stick in the lane to stop the pass back to the slot, but Klingberg got it just past the end of his stick to Radek Faksa.
Faksa was just above the hashmarks in the slot when he took his shot. Vasilevskiy was still moving from left to right to go from facing Klingberg to facing Faksa when the puck was on it’s way. Mikhail Sergachev tried to block the shot, but Faksa got it off before he got all the way in the shooting lane. Vasilevskiy was sliding over to the shot, but it found it’s way between his arm and body to the back of the net.
One thing Vasilevskiy might want back on this one is that he probably came out too far to his left in challenging Klingberg. That made the move back to the center of the net further and slower to be able to get in front of Faksa’s shot. I don’t know that the defense would have been any better if they had challenged the Stars at the blue line. Like I said, they easily could have let the Stars in behind them alone if they had done that. Even with how they defended, they ended up leaving a man alone in front for Sergachev to even challenge Faksa’s shot.
On the third goal of the game, the Cedric Paquette line was out on the ice. Paquette was down to keep an eye on the puck carrier with Yanni Gourde behind him in the neutral zone. Once Paquette’s man passed the puck, both turned their backs on the play and headed to the bench to change while the Stars started their rush. This is a play where Paquette needs to stay out there and keep challenging until a replacement player is ready to take his spot. Gourde could have been the one to step up there, but he also went for a change instead.
The change left the Stars hitting the line with speed with four players. The Lightning had Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman in the zone and one forward just off the bench entering the zone at the same time. The other two forwards were behind the Stars in the neutral zone. With the way the play developed, it ended up in more or less a three on one with only Hedman between the puck and the net. Rutta had stayed out a little wide because of the fourth Stars player entering from the far side.
Rutta and Hedman both ended up covering the leading Stars forward who didn’t have the puck. The puck moved to the center Stars player, Andrew Cogliano, who took the shot from the top of the slot. Brayden Point was the only player in the area, but Cogliano is a left handed shooter and Point was to his right and behind him leaving Point with little ability to challenge Cogliano.
Vasilevskiy only got a piece of the puck with it squeaking through the five hole. It ended up in the crease behind him. Rutta didn’t get in front of Jason Dickinson to defend him, but was instead outside of and behind him allowing Dickinson to get to the crease almost unchallenged. Hedman couldn’t get to the puck in time, allowing Dickinson to tap it in from the crease to tie up the game.
That’s a save you’d like to see Vasilevskiy get. He had eyes on the puck. He even got a piece of it. He just needed to close down the five hole a little harder and faster to get that stop. But I also can’t help but look at Paquette and Gourde changing when they did. It gave the Stars a free pass to move through the neutral zone. Palat tried his best to disrupt the entry, but he was flat footed while Dickinson swerved around him and entered the zone.
I also would have liked to see Hedman move up to challenge the two trailers while Rutta covered Dickinson. The fourth Star was not coming in with speed and was flat footed at the line. He wasn’t as big of a threat and that allowed Dickinson to get inside position on Rutta to get behind Vasilevskiy for the puck.
The fourth goal ended the game. Tyler Johnson missed an open net, hitting the side of the net. This allowed the Stars to go down the ice on a two-on-one. Hedman was back and did a good job to take away the passing lane which is what you want him to do. That allows Vasilevskiy to square up to the shot and focus on that instead of trying to cheat to the back side.
Tyler Seguin put the puck in the perfect spot just inside the far post. Vasilevskiy was out at the top of the crease challenging Seguin and trying to cover up as much of the net as he could, especially that short side. I’ve noticed a lot more players seem to be going for the short side shot instead of the far side shot. It makes me wonder if Vasilevskiy has seen that too and maybe is cheating a little more in that direction.
Obviously, this one could have been prevented by Johnson hitting the net and ending the game on the other end. But that’s the nature of three-on-three hockey in overtime. It’s intense, it’s high paced, it’s a pressure situation. Johnson tried to get the shot off as quickly as he could and end the game and he just pulled it a little bit wide. I also give credit to Seguin on the goal too. He is a sniper. Let’s not forget that. He has a phenomenal shot. We’re talking about a guy that has scored 40 goals and has scored at least 25 goals in seven of his first nine seasons in the NHL and at least 33 goals in five seasons. That was a perfect shot by him.
All-in-all, it was an extremely frustrating game to watch. The Lightning dominated the puck and got goalied. They should of had at least one if not two more goals, but Khudobin kept the puck out. The Lightning’s mistakes once again got magnified in at least two of the goals. Vasilevskiy has not been stellar this season, and I understand everyone that is bashing him right now. Some of it is on him, but some of it still is the team making little mistakes in front of him and the opponent being able to capitalize on it consistently.
With that said, if the Lightning play the way they did last night in terms of puck possession, domination really, they will win more than they lose. They have to continue to clean up these mistakes and limit them and Vasilevskiy needs to come up with a couple more saves to bail them out when they do make them.