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Vasilevskiy, defense help Lightning snap losing streak against Sabres

Photo Courtesy Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

The Tampa Bay Lightning, plagued by their first losing streak of the season, faced the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Eager to put this recent mini-slump in the rear-view mirror, Tampa Bay drew first blood on their power play. Rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who has been scoring his share of goals during his first season in the National Hockey League, added another on Tuesday. Halfway into the Lightning’s first man advantage of the night, Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson found Sergachev creeping through the Buffalo defense.

Not one to waste a dish like that, Sergachev ripped a one-timer that handcuffed Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

This opening goal was important because both teams had difficulty generating dangerous scoring chances. For the Lightning, this was something to fear because a bigger, more defensive-minded team like Buffalo enjoys playing the trap game. To defend against that, you need to put them on the chase. Had Sergachev not scored on that power play, the Sabres could have taken the lead and shut down the rest of the game.

Goals on defense

Having played most of the career for the New York Rangers, Dan Girardi was not known for the scoring. His shot blocking, size, and defensive stability are what convinced Tampa Bay to sign him last off-season. Tonight, it paid dividends offensively, as Girardi ripped a shot from the point and put his team up 2-0 in the second.

While this goal was Girardi’s first in a Lightning uniform, some of the reason this puck went in was due to the work of captain Steven Stamkos in front of the net. Stamkos, deep in a battle with a Buffalo defender, screened Lehner and caused a deflection that bounced true.

Sixth shutout of Vasilevskiy’s career

No flash, just solid all around goaltending. Vasilevskiy turned away all of Buffalo’s 34 shot attempts in a game that demanded stoicism from the Tampa Bay starter. While we’ve all grown accustomed to Vasilevskiy’s teeth-grinding saves and speedy reflexes, he won this one with great positioning and superb leg work.

The most exciting of this net-minding action came during the final four minutes of the contest as the Sabres decided to pull their goalie and toss the dice for some offense. However, Vasilevskiy held the remedy to that. He was able to find the puck with six blue jerseys bearing down on him and with each second that ticked away during the third, Vasilevskiy had become bigger in net.

The final time ticked down to zero, and with goal-scoring defensemen and a textbook goaltender in net, the Lightning earned their seventeenth win of the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, 34-save shutout
  2. Mikhail Sergachev, power play goal
  3. Dan Girardi, first goal with Lightning

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