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Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

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By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

 

DALLAS (AP) Andrei Vasilevskiy already has a Stanley Cup title, and now is only a couple minutes shy of the longest shutout streak ever by a Tampa Bay goalie.

Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots for his third consecutive shutout, extending his scoreless streak to 200 minutes, and the defending champion Lightning beat the struggling Dallas Stars 2-0 on Tuesday night - the second shutout in four days by Tampa Bay over the team it beat in the finals last September.

"You can see that confidence. ... The thing that has grown the most is the way he can calm himself during a game. It takes reps to do that, and he came into some huge situations at such a young time in his career," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "To watch his growth, it's just awesome to see."

The three straight shutouts are a career best for Vasilevskiy, the 26-year-old goalie who has played all seven of his NHL seasons for Tampa Bay.

Vasilevskiy surpassed his previous record scoreless streak of 184 minutes, 49 seconds, set three seasons ago, and is the 70th NHL goalie to surpass 200 minutes - his 200:45 is just shy of John Grahame's team-record 202:46 set over a four-game span in January 2006. Vasilevskiy's streak of 10-plus scoreless periods, during which he has stopped 92 shots in a row, is the longest in the NHL this season.

"There's a ton of confidence in front of him," Tampa Bay center Blake Coleman said. "There's certainly been some games, even during this win streak, when we haven't been our best, but he keeps us in games and gives us a chance to win some low-scoring and some close-scoring games just because he's keeping the puck out of the net."

Vasilevskiy also held the Stars without a goal in a 5-0 win Saturday at home in the first meeting this season between teams now in the same division during this pandemic-altered season.

Tampa Bay (15-4-1) has the NHL's longest active winning streak at five games and leads the Central Division with 31 points, one more than the Florida Panthers, who have played one more game than the Lightning.

Dallas has won only once in its last 10 games. The Stars played at home for the first time since Feb. 13, before having four consecutive home games postponed because of extreme winter weather that led to extended power problems in North Texas and made the American Airlines Center unavailable.

.Just as they did against Dallas on Saturday, the Lightning went ahead to stay on a power-play goal in the first period by Ondrej Palat. Their other goal was an empty-netter by Yanni Gourde with five seconds left.

Anton Khudobin stopped 17 shots for Dallas.

"I think we played better than we played in Tampa, and that was important," Khudobin said.

Palat scored 7 1/2 minutes into the game, and only 10 seconds after the Lightning went on the power play.

After Palat's initial shot from the right side was blocked by Esa Lindell, the puck ricocheted across to captain Steven Stamkos on the other side. He passed to Victor Hedman in the middle and the puck went back to Palat for a one-timer between Khudobin and the right post.

Andrew Cogliano had a point-blank shot for Dallas late in the first period, but it was pushed aside by Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goalie had also secured the puck after Joe Pavelski's shot was followed by captain Jamie Benn's two shots in quick succession.

"We had some great looks tonight - a couple of times miss the net, a couple of times making a good save," Pavelski said.

Benn had a shot midway through the second period that hit under Vasilevskiy's right arm, then ricocheted off the post. The Stars had 20 shots against him Saturday.

"He's been outstanding. Even when we don't have the good periods, he's there helping us with the big saves," Palat said. "Today, he had some huge ones. He's playing unreal. It's fun to play in front of him."

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That is outstanding 👍

 

Perhaps I should spend a couple of hours of looking at Vasilevsky playing and learning what a perfect goalie is like. Goalies are so difficult.

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The Lightning did all the right things when it came to Vasilevskiy and they are certainly reaping the rewards.

Some questioned whether he really was ready to take over as the team traded away Bishop...hell, I was even one of them...and while Vasy was still in the minors, competition between he and then farmhand Kristers Gudlevskis was a bit heated with some people thinking Kristers was the better goalie.

Of course, EVERYONE is a genius in hindsight, but I for one, am glad the Lightning FO had the foresight to realize Vasilevskiy was "the guy" and that trading away Big Ben was more than ok...especially when they got now-stalwart defenseman Erik Cernak in the deal that sent Bishop to LA.

So the Bolts ended up with a young Vezina winning number one goalie, and a large, very capable, physical defenseman on top of that.

I do have one concern with the Bolts and Vasilevskiy:

His backups.
Seems the Bolts are reluctant to play his backups because of the drop off in talent. 
Understandable.
But you also don't want to run your young goalie into the ground to where he is less than 100% come playoff time.
Worse yet, continued years of having sub par backups, and making Vasy play an obscene amount of games will shorten his shelf life and he may not be AS good over the life of his very big contract.

TB needs to find a bit more capable backups so they feel confident playing them, giving their star netminder the proper rest while he still carries the load of starts for the team.

Long way to go for him still with hurdles to clear, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Andrei Vasilevskiy becomes the all time best goaltender (numbers wise) the Bolts have ever had in categories across the boards.

Previous goalies such as Ben Bishop, Nikolai Khabibulin, and even "night n day" Darren Puppa were all great for the organization, but NONE of those guys looks to be able to hold a candle to what Vasilevskiy will have done for the team once all is said n done! 

 

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Not trying to take anything away from Vasilevskiy, believe me the man is incredible and will win the Vezina and maybe even the Hart if he continues to dominate the way he is.

 

BUT

 

Watching Tampa games this year most teams if they were to lose their all star sniper would take a step back, instead Tampa simply changed their game plan. They are no longer smashing people nightly 6-3 or some such, instead they smother you on defense and then have that skilled breakout to push the puck out of the zone. They are tied with Toronto at plus 31 although Toronto has played four more games. Nobody else is within double digits.

 

  Defensively they are not number one in any cat but they are elite in most everything.

 

3rd least amount of shots per game.

2nd best penalty kill 

 

  They do everything well in front of the games best goalie. The whole team deserves credit for reinventing themselves from a team that would pummel you to a team that will smother you.

 

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