Michael Stuart: Vasilevskiy Victorious in First NHL Game


On a night when the Tampa Bay Lightning needed a win, they turned to a 20-year-old goaltender. With Ben Bishop sidelined with a lower body injury, Andrei Vasilevskiy started and won his first NHL contest in impressive fashion. His solid play allowed the Lightning to beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 3-1.

Though they did eventually end up winning Tuesday’s game, things didn’t start out particularly well for the road team.

For a long while, it looked like the players and fans were in for more of the same. The Bolts, despite being tired after playing in Pittsburgh on Monday, played a relatively solid opening frame. The result of that effort, unfortunately, was a 1-0 hole.

At 19:19 of the first period, with the intermission in sight, Wayne Simmonds tipped home his 14th goal of the season. The power play goal came with Brenden Morrow in the box for hooking, and was assisted by Mark Streit and Claude Giroux.

Luckily, that was it for the Flyers. From that point on, Vasilevskiy was a brick wall. Nothing was getting past him. There wasn’t even a hint of nervousness. He was perfect.

His Bolts answered back early in the second period when Steven Stamkos scored his 18th marker of the 2014-15 campaign. His linemates, Jonathan Drouin and Ryan Callahan, were credited with the assists. The potential for greatness is absolutely there for that trio, and we got a hint of it with that Stamkos goal. With Drouin’s playmaking abilities, Stamkos’s scoring prowess, and Callahan’s dogged determination to do whatever it takes to make something happen, that line has a little bit of everything.

Tyler Johnson scored his 10th goal of the year less than five minutes later to give the Lightning the 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan, Johnson was able to pounce on a loose puck in the slot and send it past Steve Mason for the score.

That was all Vasilevskiy would need to steer his team to victory. He faced six shots in that second period and eight more in the third. Not one beat him. It wasn’t a particularly heavy workload, but he did what needed to be done. For a young goaltender playing in his first career game behind a tired team, this result is more than fantastic.

Valtteri Filppula added an empty-net goal, his sixth tally of the year, with 42 seconds left on the clock. That gave the Lightning the 3-1 advantage they would hold until the end of the game. The end result was another ‘W’ and two more points in the standings. That proved to be enough to keep them atop the Atlantic Division.

The team’s next game will take place in New Jersey on Friday evening. If Ben Bishop is still dealing with an ailment, Jon Cooper shouldn’t have any problem going right back to the hand that helped lead his team past the Flyers on Tuesday.

As always, thanks for reading. Michael Stuart has been the Tampa Bay Lightning writer for HockeyBuzz since 2012. Visit his archive to read more or follow him on Twitter.