Vasilevskiy ‘omitted to dry’ by Lightning in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

Vasilevskiy ‘omitted to dry’ by Lightning in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

Vasilevskiy ‘omitted to dry’ by Lightning in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

DENVER — Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the midst of the worst playoff game of his NHL career on Saturday, but Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper had no intention of taking him out.

“He’s our man,” Cooper said. “He’ll be there in a few nights. We win together, we lose together. Even if I did (pulling him), I don’t think he would be (come out). That’s what a competitor he is. That is why he’s the best.”

Vasilevskiy went on to concede seven goals on 30 shots against the Colorado Avalanche, who took a 7-0 victory in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final at Ball Arena to extend their lead in the best-of-7 series. It was only the second time in his NHL career, which spans 365 regular-season and 100 post-season games, that Vasilevskiy has allowed more than six goals in a game.

The last time Vasilevsky was taken out of a playoff game was on May 11, 2018, when he conceded four goals on 25 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, he has played every minute of their 77 post-season games.

“These are the playoffs. We’re here to win hockey games,” said Cooper. “‘Vasy’ gives us the best chance of winning the hockey game.”

Still, there’s no denying that the Avalanche made Vasilevskiy look vulnerable during the first two games of the final.

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Entering the series, Vasilevskiy never had three goals in the first period of a play-off game. That streak promptly ended in Game 1, when he conceded three goals on 15 shots. Then, in the first period of Game 2, he allowed three goals on 11 shots.

However, no one on the Lightning blamed Vasilevskiy.

“Listen, we left him out to dry tonight,” Captain Steven Stamkos said. “He’s been our backbone for years and years and years and we owe it to him to play a better game next game. I mean, it could have been more. He made some incredible saves.

“This is by no means his tonight. We have to get better as a group.’

If they can be better for him, defender Victor Hedman has no doubts that Vasilevskiy will bounce back into Game 3 at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Monday (8pm ET: ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“Leave that behind him,” Hedman said. “He showed a lot of character and stayed in this game.

“You can’t blame him for goals. Some nice actions from them.”

Of the seven goals Tampa Bay conceded on Saturday, two came on power play, three on odd-man rushes (including one shorthanded), one came on a rebound and the other came from a giveaway of Ondrej Palat below the Lightning goal line.

defender Ryan McDonaghwho was in the penalty area then? Valeri Nichushkin scored a power play goal to put the Avalanche 1-0 up in 2:54 of the first, said it was such errors, not goalkeeping, that left the Lightning behind the eight ball.

“It wasn’t a great start,” McDonagh said. †[We gave up] weird looks, escapes. You know, he probably stopped three quarters of those breakouts and strange looks, so there are too many chances against him.

“We know as a group that we have to start by defending harder.”