TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his first shutout of the season and the Lightning strolled to their ninth consecutive win by skating past the Arizona Coyotes, 4-0, at Amalie Arena on Thursday night.
The Lightning goalie has seen less pucks come his way during the streak because a gritty Tampa Bay forecheck has been in the grills of opponents’ offense while disallowing scoring opportunities that were available early in the season.
“It’s been a while,” acknowledged Vasilevskiy of the shutout, which was the19th of his career. “We played pretty well–all 60 minutes. We had some games in the past where we had shutouts, but give up late goals. We played really well and the whole team deserves credit.”
Vasilevskiy has been in a zone in the last month. He hasn’t lost a game in regulation since December 14, 2019 against Washington.
“He’s been playing really well,” noted Lightning coach John Cooper. “We’ve gone halfway through the year without one [a shutout] and it was bound to come at some point. He made some good saves. A big break away save. You need to get those to pitch a shut out and he did.”
Tampa Bay outshot the Coyotes, 34-25, as the 25 shots on goal gave Vasilevskiy only 48 looks in the last two games.
“We’ve talked to him about the things you have to do to keep yourself in the game if you’re not seeing the shots volume,” said Cooper. “Between TV timeouts and doing things to keep your focus–in the end, the goalies like wins.”
Nikita Kucherov scored two goals and Cedric Paquette, Pat Maroon, and Steven Stamkos had two assists as the Lightning continued its offensive assault that has been paramount in the streak.
“It wasn’t going to be easy against an opponent that defends well,” said Stamkos. “We’ve been on this streak for a reason. We are playing well and playing the right way. I thought we may have had our best performance of the year as we were moving our feet and back checking and allowing our defense to get a good gap. We had pucks and put them to the net and scored some goals.”
Alex Killorn tallied the Lightning’s first goal at 15:06 in the first period when he dug the puck past Coyotes goalie Adin Hill. It was his 18th of the season thanks to him pressuring Hill on the doorstep of the right crease.
Mikhail Sergachev scored the second Lightning marker at 18:24 in the first when he tried to feed Paquette, who was flying in the lane. The pass went off Coyotes defenseman Jordan Oesterle’s stick and into the net. Since the puck did not touch Paquette, Sergachev was credited with his third goal of the season.
Stamkos assisted the two Lightning goals in the second period as Nikita Kucherov scored off a wrist shot on the right wing at 6:15 and then subsequently tallied his second goal of the evening at 8:52. Brayden Point also assisted the first Kucherov goal and then Jan Rutta was the second assister on his second score.
“Obviously, there are some skilled guys on the line,” said Stamkos. “We are best at skating and using our skills after that. In the second period, we got some good looks and capitalized.”
For Vasilevskiy, he has won seven straight starts and is four wins away from matching the longest goalie win streak in franchise history, which is 11 consecutive wins by Louis Domingue last season from Nov. 29, 2018 to Feb. 19, 2019.
“Anytime you get a chance to get a shutout for the goalie, you want them,” commented Stamkos. “He has battled all year and is hard on himself and has been excellent during this streak. You don’t win without elite goal tending and he was elite tonight.”
Tampa Bay looks for that record-setting 10th straight win on Saturday evening when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ken Cross is a sports contributor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org