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Vasilevskiy posts back to back shutouts, sets a franchise mark as Lightning down Canadiens 3-0

Vasilevskiy recorded his 18th career shutout and stands alone at the top of the franchise shutout list.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For two periods, this evening’s match-up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning featured some fantastic hockey. Both teams displayed solid defensive play, speed, scoring chances, tight checking, and just a sprinkling of nastiness to give the game some flavor. It was great, until the third period where Montreal seemed more intent on attacking Adam Erne and “getting even” than actually winning a hockey game. So, the Lightning marched toward a three goal third period shutout the Canadiens, and in the process Andrei Vasilevskiy secured the franchise lead in shutouts—he’s 24 years old.

1st Period

The opening period was a seesaw battle that saw both teams generate pressure and gift some chances to the opposition. Early on Tampa’s defense aggressively activated in the offensive zone to keep pressure on Montreal, but they struggled to get anything on Carey Price. At 1:23 a poor clearing attempt by J.T. Miller led to a Tomas Tatar scoring chance. Minutes later a 2-on-1 with Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos saw Carey Price remind everyone he’s Carey Price. A breakaway setup by Anthony Cirelli for J.T. Miller saw him miss wide.

Montreal didn’t sit back either. As the midway point neared the Canadiens pushed play into the Lightning zone and maintained possession, but also struggled to get anything on Vasilevskiy. As play moved back into the Montreal end the Lightning’s first real opportunity arose when Brett Kulak was called for tripping at 9:43. The ensuing power-play saw Tampa Bay generate three good chances that Price pushed aside, but aside from that the Lightning man advantage did little to force the Canadiens penalty kill to work overly hard.

This gave Montreal some life and they surged for one of their best shifts of the period between 13:00-14:20. They cycled the puck along the boards and forced the Lightning defense into a few awkward positions. This resulted in some sloppy play from the Lightning, but Vasilevskiy stood tall. Montreal’s last great chance came at 2:11 when Jonathan Drouin cut into the slot for a pass, but was tripped by Dan Girardi before he could get anything dangerous on net. The ensuing power-play was killed by Tampa Bay and the period closed.

2nd Period

The middle frame mirrored the first as both teams continued their back and forth battle. One key difference was how Montreal adjusted their offensive strategy to get more traffic into the slot.

The nastiness mentioned before started to rear its head this period. First, Andrew Shaw put a knee into Cedric Paquette’s leg while the fourth line was hemmed in the defensive zone. A scrum started in front of Price a few minutes later that saw Yanni Gourde and Max Domi get into a tussle that saw Gourde slam Domi into the ice. Both would get matching roughing minors as a result.

Their beef continued into the penalty boxes and I so wish I was a fly on the glass for these chirps. Let this beef go on, please.

During 4-on-4 play both teams exchanged pressure and chances. Tampa Bay generated there’s first with Victor Hedman Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov skating circles around Montreal defenders and having a scoring chance go just wide of Price. Montreal answered right back with their own surge and they eventually scored by outmaneuvering Tampa Bay down low in the offensive zone.

This is one of those plays where you just get beat. Tyler Johnson makes the right read, but just can’t get his stick on the puck. This was a great sequence from Montreal that was ultimately overturned after the Lightning bench challenged the play for being offside.

The remainder of the period saw the back and forth pace return with chances being exchanged by both teams. Andrew Shaw had a chance in the slot that went wide. The Stamkos line pinned the Canadiens for a shift. However, it was Montreal who closed the period out with three great chances by the Drouin line that saw Vasilevskiy thwart every single one. Tampa Bay had the possession advantage after two periods 55% to 45%, but Montreal was even in all other categories. This was a great even battle between these two teams.

3rd Period

It didn’t take long for Montreal to begin their march to the penalty box this period—52 seconds to be exact (Montreal took four penalties this period). Philip Danault was sent off for hooking and it didn’t take the Lightning long to flex their muscle on the power-play this go around.

Sometimes you luck out when you whiff on a shot. That’s what happened here with Ondrej Palat. The pass from Point doesn’t settle on Palat’s stick and Steven Stamkos is right there to recover it. He then draws to Canadiens toward him before feeding a pass to Kucherov who promptly blasts a one-timer past Carey Price to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. Kucherov had an ealier on the man advantage that Price swallowed with ease. As the saying goes though, “try and try again until you succeed”.

Tampa Bay wasted little time extending their lead on Montreal as Yanni Gourde sniped one past Price just 1:25 later.

What’s this? A neutral zone turnover by Jonathan Drouin? I’m shocked I tell you, shocked! Jokes aside, the turnover is rather unfortunate since the shaft of Kucherov’s shift completely kills any momentum the puck has. Point recovers it and feeds a soft pass to Gourde who skates in and picks his corner on Carey Price. Tampa Bay never looked back after this.

The Lightning have a much more keen killer instinct this season. They hound teams even when they’re up multiple goals and don’t sit back as much as they used to in previous seasons. Point had a breakaway chance that was saved by Price. The Stamkos line put a few more shots on Price during a prolonged shift. The third line pinned the Canadiens at different junctures as well.

Montreal, on the other hand, seemed agitated after the second goal. They blatantly appeared to be more concerned with boarding Lightning players and starting scrums after the whistle. Nicolas Deslauriers was called for boarding Adam Erne at 7:54, and Nate Thompson decided to remind everyone why his chirp game is just as bad as his actual game.

The ensuing power-play saw little from the Lightning that was dangerous. Once 5v5 play returned the Lightning continued to dominant the Canadiens and thought they had scored their third goal of the evening when Tyler Johnson tipped a point shot from Victor Hedman. Unfortunately, Montreal challenged for goaltender interference and the goal was overturned.

How the goal was overturned I have no idea. Johnson’s skate brushes against Price’s skate as he leaves the crease and then he redirects the puck with his stick. Price’s stick gets a bit jammed in Johnson’s chest, but Price was still able to move fine. I have no idea what constitutes goaltender interference in this league. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of consistency with the league on these calls. Plays that look like are interference aren’t and vise versa. I give up on this nonsense.

Montreal’s insistence of being “touch to play against” continued when Dale Weise, for some stupid reason, decided to go after Erne in the neutral zone. Weise was sent to the box for roughing and the Lightning power-play went through the motions to kill off more time. Shortly after Weise’s penalty expired, Tampa Bay reminded Montreal what playing hockey was when Tyler Johnson scored his second goal of the night (though, only one was “legal” in the official’s eyes).

Stamkos manages to catch the Montreal defense being too aggressive here and skates it out for a 2-on-1 that Johnson converts on. The remainder of the game saw Montreal cut back on some of their shenanigans and focus on hockey which actually led to some offense being generated.

Tampa Bay entered the second with 20 shots and at the moment of the above tweet they had 32—they ended the game with 37. Montreal’s shenanigans wouldn’t completely go away as Andrew Shaw started a tussle with Anthony Cirelli that saw both players receive a game misconduct. Cirelli received an additional two minutes for roughing when he wrapped Shaw up and took him down to the ice. Note, there were 15 seconds left in the game at this point, but sure Shaw go “send a message” when your team decided to stop playing hockey in the final period after playing a great game for two periods.

The Good

Vasilevskiy Stands Alone

Andrei Vasilevskiy was great this evening. He wasn’t tested as much as I anticipated, given that Montreal is a high shot volume team, but there were plenty of in-close chances that he had to scramble for to keep the Canadiens off the boards. He now holds the franchise record for most shutouts in a career at 18 and he’s only 24 years old. That record is going to keep growing for a long time, folks.

The Bad

Montreal’s Third Period

I don’t get it. I just don’t. The Canadiens played a fantastic game through two periods. They were neck and neck with the Lightning and had just enough nastiness to their game to give the tilt some drama to go with the great play on the ice. Then the third period came and they suddenly decided to play like a far lesser team that was more focused on taking liberties than playing the game.

Montreal doesn’t have the luxury to play like this and essentially blow a period against a team like Tampa Bay. If they had stuck to how they played in the first two periods, this game could’ve easily gone to overtime or the shootout, and at that point it’s essentially a coin flip. They’re clinging onto a wildcard spot by two points and the teams chasing them are Pittsburgh and Carolina (have fun fending them off as the season winds down). They’re five points behind the third place Boston Bruins and six behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re more than likely not going to pass either of those teams, so, they have to bank as many points as they can. The whole narrative of this game was changed when Montreal decided to not play their game in the third and play like an bunch of angry men looking to “get even”. They’re better than that.

The Whatever

I’m annoyed at how that game ended. The first 40 minutes were great. The last 20 saw one team get in their own heads and Tampa Bay sticking to their gameplan. checks scoreboard I wonder whose methodology was better?