Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy shines in 4-3 win over Kings

Netminder made 44 saves on 47 shots to help the Lightning hang on for the victory

On the night where Vincent Lecavalier’s number was officially retired by the organization, the Tampa Bay Lightning came out with rockets strapped to their skates (for two periods, anyway) as they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 Saturday night.

Coach Jon Cooper kept the lines from the Vancouver game together after a strong game, and early on it looked to be a wise decision. The Point line set the tone with a relentless forecheck to open the period, and the Stamkos line followed suit.

Steven Stamkos, Yanni Gourde, and Tyler Johnson were all near the left half boards in the Kings zone battling for the puck against three Kings defenders. The puck rolled towards the faceoff dot where Gourde managed to settle it down for a moment. Gourde immediately dropped a pass to Stamkos at the bottom of the faceoff circle. Stamkos wasted no time and snapped a shot on net past Darcy Kuemper to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead just 1:05 into the period.

The following four minutes saw the Lightning skate circles around the Kings. The puck rarely left the Kings zone during the first five minutes of the opening frame, and Tampa looked every bit as terrifying offensively as they ever have. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you allow an odd-man rush on a poor play.

Cedric Paquette lost the puck to the right side of Darcy Kuemper and managed to locate it again on Nick Shore’s stick. Paquette managed to steal it back but then swung the puck towards the slot—where no Lightning player was present. The Kings broke out of their zone on a 3-on-2 and Jonny Brodzinski promptly scored on Los Angeles’ first shot of the game. Paquette tried to get back into the play but was too slow to be of any impact. This was the most glaring mistake the Lightning made all period.

Next, was an interference penalty to Alex Killorn. Given how there were many blatant interference situations in the game, it was a slight surprise to see Killorn go to the box for that play. Tampa Bay’s struggling PK unit (79% on the season) came onto the ice and many in Amalie Arena held their breath.

The only thing that needs to be shown and/or said is this.

We are not worthy.

Vasilevskiy made numerous stops to negate LA’s pressure on the power-play. Tampa Bay didn’t clear the zone until 1:30 of the two-minute power-play had gone by. Someone on the penalty-killing unit needs to buy Vasilevskiy dinner for the next month after what he did to keep it tied.

Surprisingly, some good fortune bounced Tampa Bay’s way immediately following the killed penalty. Now, I don’t know if Stamkos knew Killorn’s penalty was ending at that exact moment, but given how he golf swung a clearing attempt off the boards and directly onto Killorn’s stick makes me think it was more intentional than not. Nonetheless, Killorn had a partial breakaway and converted on it to give Tampa Bay the lead once again.

The rest of the first period was played at a breakneck pace for both teams (which is mildly surprising given LA’s reputation as a slower team). Tampa controlled the period at even strength, but as the case has been this season, the chances they tend to give up during those dominating stretches cause a lot of heart rates to rise exponentially. If it wasn’t for Vasilevskiy the first period could’ve been a very different story.

Cedric Paquette was the primary reason why LA scored their first goal of the game. So, it’s fitting that he redeemed himself by pouncing on a loose puck, recovering his own rebound, and just throwing the puck on net. Paquette’s goal was entirely Kuemper’s fault for moving his pad at the wrong time. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but Paquette will take it. Kuemper was pulled immediately following the Paquette goal.

Enter Jonathan Quick.

I’m going to skip the part where Tampa Bay was dominating LA here to discuss the most controversial part of the period—which then led to even more controversy and bad blood. Cory Conacher pushed Alec Martinez into Quick which causes the defender to roll over his goaltender. Quick then reached out with his right arm to grab Conacher’s right leg. Quick yanked Conacher's leg and Conacher obviously fell to the ice. Quick also tried to cover the puck and slid himself out of the crease a little to better position himself. Conacher then threw a punch at Quick and that’s when things got crazy (Conacher threw the first punch, watch the overhead replay and you’ll see it). Quick started flinging punches at Conacher and somehow loses his helmet in the process. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Tampa Bay get into some nastiness—and boy that was only the start.

Tampa Bay noticeably became more physical after the Quick altercation. Yanni Gourde drew a cross-checking penalty and got into a scrum afterward, and the ice started to become tilted in Tampa Bay’s favor.

LA managed to kill that penalty, but then an ugly duckling decided to rear its head—Dustin Brown.

Brown has a history of these plays. He was rightly ejected for this dirty play and should be suspended. Will the NHL do it? Find out next time on “things the NHL should but likely won’t get right”.

Tampa Bay was given a 5-minute power-play where they converted early with Kucherov sniping a wrister past Quick to give Tampa a 4-1 lead. However, the rest of the man-advantage was rife with over-passing and blocked shots. The ones that did get through either went high, wide, hit the post, or Quick swallowed up. At this point, the ice was entirely tilted in Tampa Bay’s favor. LA was clearly on the back foot and the entire arena was screaming at them (rightfully so).

The rest of the period was mostly on the 5-minute power-play and I’ve already explained how that went.

Before I get to the third, #$&% Dustin Brown. That is all. [Fair enough. - Acha]

The third period started with less speed and aggression as the previous two, but LA looked to be in control early on. They limited Tampa Bay’s speed while entering the offensive zone and did a good job cutting off passes. LA managed to close the score to 4-2 at 3:17 when Kyle Clifford deflected an Anze Kopitar wrist shot past Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy looked towards the referee for a goaltender interference call but was turned down by the official. Looking at the replay I agree with the ref on this one. This was just a good screen by Kyle Clifford. Clifford was in front of Vasilevskiy and not in the blue paint. Vasilevskiy put his glove hand on on Clifford to try and look around him. That made Vasilevskiy a half second to slow on the reaction to Kopitar’s shot. It wasn’t goaltender interference.

Two killed penalties later and the tilt that was in Tampa Bay’s favor was now in LA’s. The Lightning defense has consistently been a bend but don’t break unit, however, the unit as a whole looked lost for large portions of the third period. Christian Folin scored off a point shot Vasilevskiy never entirely saw. The scrambling the defense was doing for the majority of this period was part nauseating and terrifying. They can’t afford to be skated around by a slower team like that. After controlling most of the game for the first 40 minutes the last 20 seemed to be an enigma for Tampa Bay to figure out this evening (more below).

The remaining portion of the third can be summed up with this:

Andrei Vasilevskiy is not a human being.

When the rest of the team was scrambling and trying to make desperation plays to keep the puck out of their zone it was Vasilevskiy who remained calm and poised in net. It was Vasilevskiy who turned away 18 of 20 shots in the third period (Tampa had four in the third period—FOUR). All hail Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Good

Andrei Vasilevskiy

What more needs to be said about this kid? He’s been the team’s MVP this season—and it isn’t even close (sorry Kucherov and Stamkos). Out of the three shots that did get past him the only goal that you can remotely blame him for is the Clifford goal. He could’ve read that differently and made the save there. Outside of that, the other two weren’t on him.

The ice became extremely tilted in the third period with LA getting two power-plays back-to-back. Tampa was never able to gain any kind of traction after the penalty kills, and it was evident with the way LA was swarming in the offensive zone.

Yet, Vasilevskiy stood tall. The roar of cheers after Vasilevskiy made one last pad save on a Drew Doughty one-timer with .5 seconds left perfectly illustrates what the fan base thinks of him—they love him. Tampa needs to address the defensive issues that are plaguing them because wasting the season Vasilevskiy is having would be a tragedy.

The Bad

Dustin Brown

He used to be an effective power forward in this league. He was having a comeback season without being a dirtbag. What the hell happened?

That hit on Sergachev was absolutely uncalled for and bush-league. He’s done this before and somehow escaped supplemental discipline. This time? He deserves a suspension—simply to send a message to the players.

This **** doesn’t fly. He can’t go after people’s knees. If he’s going to miss the check then use his damn stick and risk a tripping penalty—better that than possibly destroying someone's knee.

Tampa Bay lucked out with Sergachev but plays like the one Brown made need to be properly vilified and despised—by everyone.

The Whatever

I got nothing folks. I’ve ranted enough about the third period and Brown. Those were the two things that, to me, were worthy of mentioning. As for things I thought were just kind of meh? Nothing. The offense was fine and their inability to generate anything in the third was as much the defense’s fault as it was theirs (so they get lumped together). The penalty kill was good tonight, however, they looked discombobulated in the process (so I’m not going to provide a positive spotlight on that). What do you all think?