Vasilevskiy backstops Tampa Bay Lightning in 5-2 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Andrei Vaslievskiy wants everyone to know; lions are also cats

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in a game that was never in question—at any point. Andrei Vasilevskiy was huge in this game, making a variety of impressive saves to stem the Oilers offense. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Yanni Gourde all scored goals this evening to help alleviate the pressure on Vasilevskiy.

It only took Tampa Bay 4:40 to get on the board as Steven Stamkos rifled one over Mikko Koskinen’s glove to break a five game streak where the Lightning failed to score the first goal. Not much to breakdown here, just solid passing and taking advantage of an odd man situation. After a slow start to the season, it looks like the Captain has found his groove over the past several games.

The Lightning continued to pressure the Oilers for the first half of the opening period. At the midway point the shots were 10-3 for Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last as Edmonton surged in the latter half of the period. Tampa Bay did mitigate the pressure by keeping the Oilers toward the perimeter of the offensive zone, but that did little to stop Edmonton from getting some dangerous chances.

Exhibit A

Remember folks, “lions are also cats”.

Tampa Bay did strike before the first period ended as Brayden Point knocked in a loose puck that was rolling in front of Edmonton’s net.

This goal is also a friendly reminder that Tyler Johnson is really good. Johnson made this sequence happen. He retrieved a clearing attempt in the neutral zone before carrying it deep into the offensive zone. He then curled back into the left faceoff circle and fed a pass to Yanni Gourde. Gourde was unable to fire it on net due to a great stick check by Connor McDavid. Gourde did manage to take a whack at the puck after McDavid’s stick check and this caused the puck to roll in front of the net. Point was standing in front waiting for any form and rebound and managed to knock it in before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could react. After 20 minutes the Lightning led 2-0 and looked quite strong in the process.

Edmonton came out aggressive in the second period and repeatedly pinned Tampa Bay in their own zone. The Lightning managed to survive this pressure, mostly thanks to the stellar play of Vasilevskiy, but there were several plays by Ryan McDonagh, Slater Koekkoek, Braydon Coburn, and Anton Stralman that helped negate some scoring chances.

A string of penalties riddled the middle portion of the period and during an abbreviated time of 4-on-4 play the Oilers found some life.

Assumption says Vasilevskiy was partly screened and never saw the shot. The stick check by McDonagh was a bit weak as well and it seemed as though the Lightning let up a bit in this sequence. Sometimes though, a goaltender just gets beat by a shot they shouldn’t. This was Ryan Strome’s first goal of the season. 2-1 Tampa Bay

It would take Tampa Bay 47 seconds to respond.

Point keeps the play alive by retrieving the puck below the goal line and feeding a pass to McDonagh at the point. McDonagh then fires it toward the net where Gourde knocks the puck down with the blade of his stick. The puck bounces off the ice and squeaks through Koskinen’s armpit to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead.

Edmonton continued to apply pressure on Tampa Bay, but Vasilevskiy stood tall to maintain the two goal lead. Coincidental minors to Cedric Paquette and Ryan Strome provided another stretch of 4-on-4 play near the end of the period. Kucherov and Stamkos decided to put on a little show to entertain the masses.

The more peculiar thing is why Nugent-Hopkins let Kucherov glide over to the left faceoff circle. Kucherov just motioned right past him and Nugent-Hopkins just stood there. 4-1 Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay entered the third on the penalty kill after Stralman was called for slashing with 18.7 seconds left in the second. Edmonton wasted little time as their power-play put on a slick passing display that set up Leon Draisaitl for the Oilers second goal of the night.

I get the premise behind McDonagh sliding one the ice to remove the cross crease pass, but this one just whiffed. Still an impressive play by Ty Rattie though. 4-2 Tampa Bay.

The third period had a rather even pace to it with both teams generating some opportunities. McDavid skated through three Lightning defenders on multiple occasions in this period—this guy is not human. McDavid’s ability to go from a slow glide to a stampeding rush in less than a second is terrifying and anytime he had the puck one could sense the crowd holding their breath, waiting to see what he did. Luckily, his chances were thwarted by Vasilevskiy, but it is a reminder that speedy forwards can victimize the Lightning’s defensive corps.

As the period progressed, the teams began chirping each other. Some questionable hits and light scrums had scattered the previous two periods, but the third is where it started to become more apparent. Adam Larsson was called for a hook and then Matt Benning was called for slashing while the Oilers were still killing the previous penalty.

Tampa Bay did little on the shortened 5-on-3, but found the back of the net during the standard power-play.

Simply put, Kucherov’s shot bounced off Koskinen’s blocker then the his side and into the net. 5-2 Tampa Bay.

The remainder of the period saw both teams trade some chances, but neither would connect. The biggest thing that occurred was a hit by Milan Lucic on Mathieu Joseph at the 9:31 mark. I’ll go into more detail later in the recap about this.

Once the Lucic situation was handled both teams returned to play a rather uneventful period. Edmonton played out the remaining time while Tampa Bay seemed disinterested in scoring on the prolonged power-play they received from Lucic’s actions. The game ended rather blandly in retrospect. Then again, most of the talking was about the Lucic incident anyway.

The Good

Lions Are Also Cats

Again, Vasilevskiy was outstanding this evening. Enjoy this GIF one last time.

The Bad

Milan Lucic

A raucous roar of boos rained down inside Amalie Arena. Anger and displeasure was aimed at one man—Milan Lucic. In a game that should’ve been about the division leading Lightning taking on the McDavid led Oilers, it ended up being about a player whose effectiveness has deteriorated from great power forward to a lumbering quasi-enforcer.

Here’s one pundit’s “reasoning”

The ugly archaic mentality of old time hockey comes up yet again. I’m not surprised by people in the hockey realm still grasping onto this ideology. I’m just disappointed. This mindset still has a strong grasp on the NHL, and it shows us that the league has a ways to go in progress and making the game safer. Lucic was penalized for this move, he received two minutes each for interference and roughing with a 10 minute misconduct added on. Whether or not the league will seek supplemental discipline remains to be seen. Personal opinion? I’m leaning towards they won’t.

The premise of running down a rookie to “teach him a lesson” is an artifact from a previous era. What place does this mentality have in the modern NHL? To teach? What good is it to hit a defenseless player and then punch him in the head while he is laying on the ice? It’s nonsense and an ever-growing majority of fans don’t want to see this in the game. The sport is moving towards a speed and skill oriented style, yet there are still powerful men who cling to these older ideals. What purpose does it serve?

If the NHL is serious about player safety, they’ll look to discipline Lucic, but they also might view his in-game punishment as enough. This isn’t to play middle-man, it’s a mentality fostered by the NHL’s inability to consistently discipline players in the past. Is this as bad as Tom Wilson’s hit in the preseason? No, not even close, but this is still something the league should want to get out of the game. For one game though, Lucic’s actions overtook the greater story of McDavid vs the Lightning.

This is not what hockey is.

The Whatever

Let’s hear it, folks!