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Vasilevskiy helps Lightning secure a point in 3-2 shootout loss to the Golden Knights

Vasilevskiy was fantastic this evening with 35 saves.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After taking a two goal lead, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the Vegas Golden Knights rally in a 3-2 shootout loss. With the win, Vegas snaps their four game losing streak. For the Lightning, it is their second loss since returning from the All-Star break, and are 2-1-1 in that time frame. Andrei Vaslievskiy made 35 saves in the loss while Marc Andre-Fleury made 24 for the Golden Knights.

1st Period

The opening period saw a frenetic pace take hold as both teams refused to take their feet off the gas. Odd man rushes, scrambles in both offensive zones, and hair raising moments were on the menu for this period and both teams provided them in spades. The Lightning pounced on the Golden Knights in the opening 30 seconds, but it took one rush from Vegas to showcase the tempo.

Vegas applied pressure through a relentless forecheck that caused the Lightning defense out of position multiple times. Tampa Bay struggled to negate Vegas’ pressure as the Golden Knights fired the first five shots on goal before the Lightning managed one. Vegas also created the first real dangerous scoring chance. Luckily, Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to bail the Lightning out.

Notice Tyler Johnson not paying attention to the Vegas player driving toward the net? Those mistakes haunted the Lightning this evening.

Tampa Bay did push back, but only after Vegas dictated the pace for the majority of the opening five minutes. It wasn’t until Brayden Point’s line pinned Vegas in the offensive zone that the Lightning drew a penalty and got their first real sense of pressure.

Tampa Bay’s power-play has bailed them out when their 5v5 play isn’t as strong, so, the fact that the Lightning capitalized on this opportunity shouldn’t surprise anyone. The biggest thing to take away from this goal is how Point doesn’t quit on the puck after Brayden McNabb blocks Nikita Kucherov’s shot. Point gives McNabb a push to free the puck and he simply whips it on net and past Marc-Andre Fleury. You take the breaks when they come your way.

The goal failed to spark much more from the Lightning though. Vegas pushed right back and had a few dangerous opportunities before William Karlsson was called for tripping at 7:38. The ensuing power-play had a bevy of chances for the Lightning that either went wide, were blocked, deflected out of play, or saved by Fleury. Their best chance was a wide open one-timer from Steven Stamkos that bounced off the side of the net.

Once play returned to 5v5 the Lightning began to find their legs a bit. Both teams exchanged rushes up and down the ice, but neither managed to generate anything especially dangerous. Vegas dictated the pace and neutralized most of Tampa Bay’s controlled entries by limiting their passing options and forcing the puck around the boards where a Vegas defender was waiting. Tampa Bay struggled to adapt to this as the period progressed, but still managed a few slivers of pressure—it just wasn’t enough to tilt the ice in their favor.

The Lightning did have one final push late in the period after killing a tripping penalty on Yanni Gourde. The push culminated in a beautiful pass from Mathieu Joseph to Anthony Cirelli in the slot. Cirelli was hooked on the play and was unable to follow through on his chance, but it did give Tampa Bay a power-play at the tail end of the period. They didn’t generate much before the period ended, but entering the second with 45 seconds on the man advantage with the offensive weapons the Lightning has is a pretty great way to start.

There were spurts for Tampa Bay, but Vegas controlled this period. The Golden Knights controlled 57% of the shots at 5v5 and 63% of the scoring chances. Vasilevskiy and the power-play were a big reason why the Lightning had a 1-0 lead after 20.

2nd Period

Unfortunately, the second period echoed the first. Tampa Bay failed to convert on the power-play to start the period and Vegas controlled the period as a whole. The first half of the period saw both teams battle for neutral zone control. Vegas came out on top and pinned the Lightning in their defensive zone on several occasions. There were spurts from Tampa Bay that saw them push play into Vegas’ zone, but it was far and few between. Tampa Bay’s struggles stemmed from Vegas’ defenders limiting their time and space at the offensive blueline. Anytime a Lightning forward attempted a controlled entry, he was swarmed by two Vegas defenders and stripped of the puck.

The Lightning weathered Vegas’ pressure until around the 13 minute mark. It was here where the 3rd and 4th lines for the Lightning dominated the Golden Knights. The Cirelli line pushed Vegas back and repeatedly negated any clearing attempt the Golden Knights tried to attempt. The 4th line followed suit by grinding Vegas defenders along the boards and forcing turnovers.

It finally paid off when Mathieu Joseph scored his 13th of the season.

See number 88 for Vegas? That’s Nate Schmidt, a very good defenseman. He’s been stuck on the ice for over a minute and a half thanks to the 3rd and 4th lines pinning Vegas in the offensive zone. He’s exhausted and doesn’t get as much on his clearing attempt as he should. This enables Braydon Coburn to keep the puck alive before passing it to Steven Stamkos. Stamkos then puts it on net where Fleury is unable to control the rebound. Joseph manages to knock in the rebound while being pushed into Fleury by Colin Miller.

Initially, the officials waived this goal off for goaltender interference, and yours truly figured they’d keep the call once Tampa Bay challenged. It’s well known that Tampa Bay is usually on the wrong side of goaltender interference calls, but this one was rightly overturned by the officials. Joseph has a right to stand in front of Fluery. He’s not even in the crease. Fleury comes out of the crease to make the initial save and it’s Miller who causes Joseph to fall onto Fleury. So, good job officials for getting this call right. Maybe defenders will stop pushing opposing players onto their goalies and crying foul when a goal is scored—it’s one of the dumbest things we see on a near nightly basis.

Tampa Bay’s lead was cut in half just 1:51 later when Cody Eakin took advantage of some horrible coverage by the Lightning.

I have no idea what Coburn and Mikhail Sergachev were doing here. Eakin wheels himself into the neutral zone and no one is even close to him. Add in that Vasilevskiy simply read Eakin wrong and it’s one of those goals where you scratch your head as to what just happened.

Now, for the ugly.

If you want my thoughts, here you go.

It’s a thread of five tweets that explains my thought process on it. My initial aggravation with this was that Carpenter was allowed to skate back to the bench under his own power after clearly being shaken up. However, my irritated was aimed at the officials at first when in fact, it should be at Vegas’ training staff who let him do that. It’s still baffling that they let him do that. I’ve dealt with friends getting concussions playing hockey and I have refused to let them skate on their own to the bench. We need to be better in regards to this.

3rd Period

The only period where the Lightning controlled the possession game. Once regulation ended, the Lightning controlled 53% of the shots at 5v5, but only 45% of the scoring chances. So, getting pressure, but not exactly generating the chances one would like. That ultimately would doom the Lightning as Vegas tied it at two just 5:22 into the period.

sigh

Coburn overcommits to Sergachev’s side, which frees up William Karlsson to do whatever he wants, and Sergachev simply glides as Valentine Zykov skates past him. This pairing had issues all night with Vegas’ speed and the two goals against happened against them. It’s frustrating, but off nights happen. Normally, the Sergachev-Coburn pairing is quite solid.

The Lightning continued to control the period, but they struggled to get anything of quality on net. They either shot wide, had their shots blocked, or deflected. Add in their propensity to overpass in certain situations and Tampa Bay did themselves little favors in the offensive zone. Even with two power-plays later in the period, they still failed to capitalize. Though, they still had some great chances that simply didn’t go in during those man advantages.

A late tripping call on Alex Killorn put Tampa Bay in the unenviable position of killing a penalty with 1:42 left in regulation. They did a great job to push the game to overtime, but 18 seconds of 4-on-3 is dangerous against any team in the NHL.

Overtime

Vegas dominated this period through and through. Their power-play was lackluster but they pinned Tampa Bay for all but 20 seconds of the overtime. Getting a horrible too many men on the ice call didn’t help Tampa Bay’s chances, but even when it was 3-on-3, the Lightning couldn’t get any kind of control. Luckily, they have Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was the sole reason they even made it to overtime.

Shootout

Alex Tuch was the only goal scorer in the shootout. The shooters Jon Cooper sent out were Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. Vegas sent out Brandon Pirri, Shea Theodore, and Alex Tuch. Losing in the shootout is never fun (nor is winning if I’m being honest), but the Lightning did manage to secure a point; which is more than they deserved for how they played for the majority of the game. Nonetheless, gathering points is a positive, so, this loss is rather moot in the grand scheme of things.

The Good

The Big Cat

Enough said.

The Bad

Pace

The Lightning struggled to establish any kind of pace during this game. They had small spurts during the first two periods, but largely, this game was dictated by Vegas. Tampa Bay relied a bit too much on their special teams and goaltending this evening and it ultimately bit them. These games happen, so, there isn’t too much to be upset about. Well, aside from the Sergachev-Coburn pairing being scorched on two goals, but you have to take the lumps when they come along.

The Whatever

Going two weeks without a Lightning home game during the season is agony. Let’s never do that again, please.