Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 20 shots and a smothering Lightning forecheck made it tough for the Dallas Stars to even get 20 pucks at Vasilevskiy as the Lightning shut out the Stars, 3-0 on in Amalie Arena on Thursday evening.
The Tampa Bay defense was so connected that it only allowed two shots to come Vasilevskiy’s was in the third period as the Lightning goalie posted his league-leading 30th win of the season.
“Blame the goalie,” Lightning coach John Cooper mused. “He can bail you out when things don’t go as you planned. It was good to see him get in his rhythm. He was tracking pucks. He was on it. Guys were getting big blocks too. Guys were sacrificing tonight.”
Vasilevskiy gave Tampa Bay a parachute in the second period as the Stars placed 12 pucks at the net. His confidence and focus combined helped the Lightning maintain their 1-0 lead after two periods and set the stage for a huge third period.
“I think it was a great response in the third period by us,” said defenseman Ryan McDonough. “In the second period, we got a little loose there turning the puck over and not playing 200 feet. We bared down and played hard and made sure we kept that shut out there for Vasy.”
While Vasilevskiy recorded his fourth shut out of the season, center Blake Coleman made the play of the game midway through the third period that allowed the Lightning to shove the Stars to the ropes.
At 8:27, Coleman stole the puck at center ice and proceeded on the breakaway when he was tripped by Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. Referees immediately awarded Coleman a penalty shot and he made good as he went top shelf over goalie Jake Oettinger’s left shoulder for a 2-0 lead.
“Obviously, I was pretty gassed even before I stripped that puck at center and it took everything I had to get that breakaway,” Coleman commented. “Obviously, I wanted to get a good chance out of it and I thought I was taken down.”
Tampa Bay brought physicality to a tough matchup as the Lightning outhit the Stars, 33-30, and then McDonough had three of the Lightning’s 18 blocked shots.
“I think we are a pretty determined group who takes pride in being strong on the ice in all situations,” said McDonough. “I think if you ask anyone they would tell you that we still have room to improve. We are getting good results and putting together pretty close to 60 minute efforts but we know in the playoffs, you need to be sharp in every situation there.”
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead when Ondrej Palat stole the puck off of Jamie Oleksiak’s blade in front of the Stars net. He immediately flipped the puck by Oettinger’s right side for a 1-0 lead at 14:41.
It was Palat’s seventh straight game with a point as he is one off of his personal record of eight in a row. It was also Palat’s third goal vs. the Dallas Stars this season.
“I thought the first and third were really good for us,” said Cooper. “A little bit of a lull in the second, but the third period was championship hockey. Guys were blocking shots and paying the price physically.”
Brayden Point capped the evening with his empty netter at 18:39 as he now has a team-high 21 goals this season.