PREVIEW: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning look to stay perfect vs. Dallas Stars

By Field Level Media
Mar 18, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Andrei Vasilevskiy is pretty much unbeatable right now.

The Tampa Bay goaltender set a franchise record with his 12th straight win in the Lightning’s 2-1 victory Tuesday at Dallas in a rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Final.

Vasilevskiy is two shy of the NHL record as the Lightning enter Thursday’s rematch against the host Stars.

The 26-year-old Russian had to make just 16 saves Tuesday to eclipse Louis Domingue’s franchise record of 11 consecutive victories from Nov. 29, 2018, to Feb. 19, 2019.

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“A few guys told me after (Saturday’s) game and before this game that (Tuesday) could be a record,” Vasilevskiy said. “I just don’t think about that. I just try to do my job, work hard, do my routine before the game so I can play my best game every night.”

Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with 21 wins and a .933 save percentage this season.

“He’s a cornerstone goaltender,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “He just continues to amaze. And I’m glad he didn’t have to stand on his head (Tuesday) for this one.”

Vasilevskiy is the ninth goalie in league history with 12 straight wins. The record is 14, set by Boston’s Tiny Thompson (1929-30) and matched by Pittsburgh’s Tom Barrasso (1992-93), Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller (2013-14) and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky (2016-17).

The goalie had to face just seven shots through the first two periods Tuesday, including only one in the second, to improve to 9-0-3 against the Stars in his career.

“I’m very proud of our team; it was an unbelievable effort,” Vasilevskiy said. “I just want to say thank you to my teammates.”

Roope Hintz scored a power-play goal 4:32 into the game to give the Stars the lead, but they were stymied the rest of the way to drop to 2-2-3 in their past seven games.

“The worst thing you can do against that team is, No. 1, turn the puck over anywhere through the neutral (zone), and sit back,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “I thought we were fine in the first, and in the third we played on our toes and went after them a little. If you sit back like we did in the second, you’re just asking for trouble.”

Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde scored less than five minutes apart midway through the second period for the Lightning, who have won five in a row and became the first team in the league to reach the 50-point mark this season.

Despite the absence of defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is out with a lower-body injury, the Lightning blocked 15 shots.

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“In the end, that’s how you win hockey games,” Cooper said. “It’s not necessarily how many you put in the net, it’s what you keep out. Aside from that one power play going in early, we didn’t give them much. Guys were committed to defending, and hence that’s how you win 2-1 games.”

After defeating the Stars in six games in last season’s Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning have won each of the first four games against them this season. Tampa Bay is only the fourth defending champion in NHL history to accomplish that feat, joining the Montreal teams of 1944-45, 1957-58 and 1976-77.

“To beat them, we know what to do; you just have to be willing to do it for the entire game,” Stars forward Andrew Cogliano said. “We have to do that Thursday night and if we do that, hopefully we’ll get a win and build some momentum.”

–Field Level Media