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Epic goalie duel ends in shootout loss for Lightning

When two of the best goaltenders in the world match up, there’s a strong chance a goalie duel is in the works. For the second time in a week, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens got together with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Carey Price getting the start for their teams.

Although the previous meeting ended in a 3-1 Lightning victory, this game would require a shootout. Only fitting since Vasilevskiy and Price engaged in an epic goalie duel.

Vasilevskiy made 37 saves, while Price stopped 44 shots as the Canadiens (17-20-4) edged the Lightning (29-9-2) by a 2-1 score at the Bell Centre. The loss ended a two-game winning streak for the Bolts, while the Habs stopped a five-game losing streak in the process. Paul Byron scored the lone goal in the shootout for Montreal, while Nikita Kucherov and Max Pacioretty found the back of the net for each team in regulation. The story of this game, however, was the goaltending.

The goalie duel between Vasilevskiy and Price was a result of both teams turning the puck over and creating odd-man rushes.

Vasilevskiy had to be extremely sharp early on, denying Pacioretty with a dazzling right pad save 25 seconds into the game. Philip Danault skated into the Lightning zone and dished it in front to Pacioretty, whose shot was kicked away by Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay started very slowly in this contest, as they were a step behind for the first half of the period. Montreal spent a lot of time in the Lightning’s zone, and Vasilevskiy came to the rescue again a few minutes after robbing Pacioretty. Andrew Shaw took a pass on an odd-man rush, skating in alone. Fortunately for the Lightning, their star goalie was up to the task again, making another big save. Tampa Bay gave up far too many odd-man rushes during this time frame.

The Lightning’s lone solid chance in the first 10 minutes occurred on a 2-on-1 involving Steven Stamkos and Kucherov that saw Kucherov miss an open net. As the period wore on, Tampa Bay found their stride and started putting more pucks on Price. A shot by Victor Hedman led to a scramble in which Brayden Point was denied in close. Cedric Paquette fed Ryan Callahan in front, but the pass was slightly behind him. By the time Callahan got the shot off, Price was able to cut off the angle and make the save.

Late in the period, the Lightning nearly surrendered a shorthanded chance right after going on a power play. A turnover at the Bolts’ blue line led to Byron skating in alone. He got off a shot as Yanni Gourde tripped him, but Vasilevskiy made the save and Gourde went to the box just before the intermission.

Despite the early goaltending heroics, both teams hit the back of the net early in the second period.

With both teams playing 4-on-4 hockey for 1:42 coming out of the intermission, Pacioretty snapped his 13-game goal drought, putting the Habs up 1-0 just 20 seconds in. A Mikhail Sergachev turnover led to Pacioretty skating in and beating Vasilevskiy unassisted for his ninth of the season. Vasilevskiy, who entered the game with two straight shutouts and three in his previous four starts, saw his shutout streak end at 184:49.

Montreal’s lead turned out to be short-lived, as Kucherov tallied just 44 seconds after Pacioretty’s goal, tying the game 1-1. Kucherov skated out of the corner towards the slot and fired a shot past Price for his 26th goal of the season. Stamkos and Hedman earned the assists, with Stamkos’s helper also serving as his 50th point of the year.

Both teams traded quality chances in an exciting, fast-paced second period, highlighted by a Vasilevsky save on Danault on a 3-on-1. At the other end, Paquette nearly scored for the second straight game, but saw a one-timer from the left circle ring off the goal post. However, the Lightning continued to surrender too many high-quality off-man rushes despite only being outshot 25-24 through two periods. Fortunately for them, Montreal also had plenty of issues with puck management as well.

An evenly-matched contest continued to see the two goalies shine in the third period.

Tampa Bay held a 16-11 edge in shots on goal in the third period, as each team continued trading quality chances at each end. The best scoring opportunity for either team in that stanza occurred when Kucherov stripped the puck from Karl Alzner and raced towards Price on a breakaway. However, Price made a key save in keeping the game knotted up 1-1. It was a game that would’ve probably gone to triple overtime if it were a playoff game, but the fans at the Bell Centre and those watching at home would have to settle for 3-on-3 overtime.

During the overtime period, the Lightning got the better of Montreal, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Their best chance came when Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson sped down the ice on a 2-on-1. Palat dished the puck to Johnson, whose blistering wrist shot was denied by Price. Price fell down during the save, taking himself out of position. As he sprawled around like 1990’s-era Dominik Hasek, Palat got the rebound with an open net, waiting until he had the right opening. Despite having an unbelievable look at the net, Price made his case for the save of the year:

This is the third season the NHL has used 3-on-3 overtime during the regular season, and that save was the top highlight of what was one of the best 3-on-3 overtimes the league has seen since the format was introduced.

Price’s Herculean effort led to the shootout, where Byron was the only player for either team to score, giving the Canadiens the win, although the Lightning still gained a valuable point int he standings.

The Lightning return to the ice this Saturday when they head to Ottawa for a contest against the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.

Game Notes

-Vasilevskiy’s previous longest shutout streak in his career was 178:02.

-Kucherov is now tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead with 26 goals. He still leads the league with 57 points.

-Vasilevskiy has only allowed two goals in his last five starts, both of them against Montreal.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Carey Price – Finished with 44 saves

2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevksiy – Ended the night with 37 saves

3rd Star: Max Pacioretty – The Canadiens’ star sniper ended a 13-game goal drought and also recorded five shots on goal.

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