Tampa Bay Times

Vasilevski­y gets shutout,

- BY EDUARDO A. ENCINA Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInThe­Yard.

The Lightning have had success against the Predators this season, winning five of their six meetings going into Saturday night’s game at Nashville.

But the Predators recently became one of the hottest teams in the NHL, battling from near the bottom of the Central Division into fourth place, the division’s final playoff position.

Despite continuing to allow too many open looks, the Lightning were able to cool the Predators with a 3-0 win. Tampa Bay (28-11-2) improved to 20-0-0 when leading after two periods.

The Predators are 8-2-0 in their past 10 games.

The Lightning were without Steven Stamkos, who also was expected to miss Tuesday’s game in Nashville after leaving Thursday’s game with an apparent injury. But they are expected to receive reinforcem­ents Tuesday. That’s when defenseman David Savard, acquired from the Blue Jackets in a three-team trade Saturday, is expected to play in his first game for Tampa Bay.

From the game’s opening minutes Saturday, when Andrei Vasilevski­y turned away a 2-on-1 breakaway, the Lightning’s star goaltender was sharp.

Vasilevski­y had 36 saves in his fourth shutout of the season. He received help from an overturned goal when the Lightning challenged Ryan Ellis’ score in the second period, saying the Predators were offside. After a lengthy review, the goal was taken off the scoreboard.

“(Vasilevski­y is) so good for us every single night,” said forward Yanni Gourde. “We can trust him every single night. It’s amazing what he does back there. That first period, (Nashville) had (18 shots). And there was some Grade-A opportunit­ies there, and he turned back all of them.”

Nashville dominated zone time in the first, outshootin­g Tampa Bay 18-5, but the Lightning tightened their game defensivel­y in the second and third periods. It marked the fourth time in Vasilevski­y’s past seven games that he recorded at least 36 saves.

“What I didn’t like was the fact that we’re just spending so much time in our D zone (in the first period),” Lightning

coach Jon Cooper said. “We kind of figured out what we had to do there in the second and third. It got better for us. But still, we did have our breakdowns, and ‘Vasy’ was there to kick them out for us. As long as we give him an opportunit­y to see the puck and we clear the rebounds, I mean, he can take shots all day.”

The Lightning was able to grab the lead in the first. Just 6:45 in, Gourde spun around and fed streaking Ross Colton across the left circle. The rookie forward beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne with a backhand shot through the five hole. Gourde’s assist was his fifth in the past two games, while Colton’s goal was his seventh in his first 15 NHL games.

The Lightning tightened their play in the second period and added to their lead on a goal by defenseman Erik Cernak after Ellis’ goal was overturned.

“In the first period, I’d say that we weren’t really skating much,” Gourde said. “We were maybe forcing plays a little bit. We were too far from each other. We had a hard time breaking the puck out. They’re a very fast team game over there, so we got outskated early in, and I think as the game went on, we got better.”

Among Vasilevski­y’s most sparkling saves, he turned away Rem Pitlick in the first period after the Nashville rookie weaved through defenders and had an open look. Then Vasilevski­y made a toe save on Pitlick’s onetimer from the slot while Nashville was on a second-period power play.

In the third period, Vasilevski­y made a remarkable pad save on Rocco Grimaldi’s one-timer from the right circle during a power play.

Gourde scored an empty-netter with 45.5 seconds left in the game.

 ?? MARK HUMPHREY | Associated Press ?? Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevski­y blocks a shot on his way to making 36 saves against the Predators on Saturday night for his fourth shutout of the season.
MARK HUMPHREY | Associated Press Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevski­y blocks a shot on his way to making 36 saves against the Predators on Saturday night for his fourth shutout of the season.

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