The Lightning roll into the Windy City riding a 5 game winning streak. Vasilevskiy is less than 2 minutes from holding the Franchise’s longest shutout streak. The Bolts look to be more aggressive and give Vasilevskiy some aid. Their passive play was widely apparent in their latest 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars. Riding a 1-0 lead to an ENG and a win. The Chicago Blackhawks are battling in the middle of the tight Central Division schedule looking for a playoff birth.
Once again a very poor start for Tampa Bay. a common theme for the last few weeks. The Lightning put up a sorry 2 shots on goal for the first 11 minutes of the game. The Blackhawks dominated in the face off circle having a 71%-29% advantage leading to excellent puck control for Chicago, forcing Tampa to chase them around. The Lightning escaped the first period even at zero. The Bolts were out hit and out shot 11-9 with Vasilevskiy continuing to be perfect. Vasilevskiy broke John Grahmes franchise shutout streak record from the 2005-06 season in the first 3 minutes of the period. Vasilevskiy hasn’t allowed a goal in 11 straight periods.
Tampa Bay’s passive play continued into the middle frame. Chicago completely controlling the game in all aspects. Vasilevskiy robbed Domink Kubalik off a bad turnover in the defensive zone. Once again bailing out The Lightning continuing his other worldly play. But all good things come to an end. Ryan Carpenter Scored a shorthand goal against the NHL’s number 2 Penalty Kill, off a bizarre pop fly bounce that landed on his stick and Carpenter fired the puck over Vasilevskiy shoulder. His magnificent historic shutout streak finally ending at 228:09 without allowing a goal. Vasilevskiy refused to get rattled bailing out the Bolts for the rest of the period. Alex DiBrincat tipped a Patrick Kane shot past Vasilevskiy to give The Hawks a 2-0 lead. Vasilevskiy was able to make what should be a 6-0 deficit, a 2-0 deficit going into the 3rd period.
Something had to change. An embarrassing effort through 40 minutes Tampa being the lucky recipients of some of the best goaltending in recent memory. They delivered. Just 1:04 into the final frame Anthony Cirelli tipped a shot from Jan Rutta to get the Bolts on the board and cut the lead in half. The Lightning were not done getting themselves back into the game. Less than 2 minutes later Steven Stamkos sent a Rocket into the back of the net after an excellent face off win from Yanni Gourde. For the first 12 minutes of the final frame The Lightning looked like a completely different team. Yanni Gourde was exceptional in the face off circle. However starting around the 7 minutes left mark which is not the first time a drop off of quality play for the Lightning, they once again played very passively. Looking out of sync, Stationary, unaware and The Blackhawks made a Comeback effort. Andrei Vasilevskiy and the post allowed Tampa Bay to survive regulation tied and head to overtime.
After playing massive amounts of Overtime in the 2020 Playoffs this was only Tampa’s 3rd overtime game this season posting a 1-1 record beating Columbus and losing to Carolina in the early part of the 2021 season. Tampa still looked very disorganized. Vasilevskiy continued his hart trophy caliber play, stopping any and all scoring chances. In the most thrilling fashion possible Victor Hedman Scored a buzzer beater in overtime to Win the game and avoid a shootout. The clock read 0.1 remaining. After a short review the league office in Toronto concurred and gave the good goal signal, absolutely stunning the Chicago Blackhawks who played the better game. Tampa Bays winning streak hits 6 straight with a rematch with Chicago looming tomorrow night. The Lightning will look to rediscover their offensive flair and play a more consistent 60 minutes. The biggest take away is the incredible play by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Not only being a brick wall but keeping his head after having his steak snapped. An event that would lead many goaltenders to fall apart in a game where the skaters on the team are playing poorly. I challenge anyone to find a Player more Valuable to their team than Vasilevskiy is to the defending Champions right now.