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Burns: 3 Things from another win against Buffalo

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Saturday's 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have had plenty of success in Buffalo, earning at least a point in seven-straight games dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season entering their final visit to the KeyBank Center.

That good fortune continued Saturday night.

But not without a few tense moments.

Tampa Bay survived a sluggish offensive performance, a 4-on-3 penalty kill in overtime and a critical shootout to pick up a two very necessary points against its Atlantic Division riva with a 2-1 win in shootoutl. A trio of Bolts produced spectacular individual efforts to lead their team to victory.

We'll highlight all three in 3 Things we learned from beating Buffalo.

Video: TBL@BUF: Kucherov ends shootout with nifty goal


Tampa Bay held a 1-0 lead after the first round of the shootout, and had a chance to wrap up the victory after Jack Eichel was stoned by Andrei Vasilevskiy on Buffalo's second attempt.

Nikita Kucherov was up second for the Lightning. Before taking his turn, he went down to the other end of the ice and said something to Vasilevskiy.

Then he strode up to the puck and proceeded to unleash one of the greatest shootout moves any of us will ever see.

As he neared Buffalo's Robin Lehner with the puck on his forehand, he faked a deke to his backhand and let the puck slide toward goal. Lehner slid over to his right, thinking Kucherov was going to go backhand-forehand and try to sneak in a shot at the far post. Instead, the puck continued its uninterrupted path innocently toward goal, sliding five-hole beneath an incredulous Lehner.

After watching live, many speculated whether the shot was intentional or not.

It was.

"It definitely was on purpose," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said following the win. "He does it in practice all the time. I think a lot of people mess around doing that but you never thing in a NHL game. But that's Kuch. That's going to be a goal that's on YouTube forever. I can't wait to see it."

The move was both risky and brilliant. If it didn't work, Kucherov could have been lambasted for perceiving to hot dog it in a game where two crucial points hung in the balance.

When the move does work, however, which Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said is quite often in practice, it looks spectacular. The cleverness of the play is that every goalie in the world is expecting the puck to go on the backhand, and Kucherov also hides the puck as it's traveling toward goal as he circles the blade of his stick around it.

"He brought the school yard to the big stage," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "That's a school yard move for sure. But, the bottom line is it crossed the goal line and that's what we needed: special player doing special things. I tell you, though, you better score on that."

Video: TBL@BUF: Point snipes one past Lehner in the shootout

Lost in the euphoria of Kucherov's jaw-dropper, Brayden Point continues to come up clutch in shootouts this season.

Showing how much confidence the coaching staff has in Point, the 20-year-old opened the shootout for the Lightning, and the rookie center didn't disappoint.

Point calmly, confidently skated toward goal and unleashed a shot that Lehner had no chance to save, giving the Bolts the early advantage in the shootout.

"He finds the back of the net quite often in the shootout," Bolts defenseman Jason Garrison said. "He's been a killer for us in those situations, and he came through again tonight. That's a game-winner. That's a huge goal for us."

Point has now converted five times on seven shootout attempts this season, a remarkable 71.4 percent success rate. No one else on the Lightning even comes close, Jonathan Drouin next at 40 percent on 2-of-5 makes.

After the game, Cooper was asked what allows Point to have so much success in shootouts as a youngster when so many veterans fail.

"When these young kids are coming up, it's changing. They're not really afraid of anything," Cooper replied. "That's the difference from 20, 30, 40 years ago when the young guys were all afraid to make a mistake. Today, as we saw with Kuch's move and Pointer in the shootout, they seize the moment."

And through Point's shootout consistency, the Lightning seized two points.

Video: TBL@BUF: Vasilevskiy makes two clutch saves


It's been one week since Ben Bishop was traded to Los Angeles, in effect, handing over the reins of Tampa Bay's starting goaltender job to Andrei Vasilevskiy.

In his three starts since taking over the No. 1 spot, Vasilevskiy has won all three, turning in 30-plus saves in two to prove he's ready for the task.

Saturday's 31-save effort in Buffalo was another scintillating performance for the 22 year old. The Lightning offense couldn't get anything going for much of the game and relied on their goalie to keep them in the game.

Vasilevskiy responded as if he had been doing it for years. He made all the saves he was supposed to and a handful of others that maybe he wasn't.

"It's good to see," Cooper said. "It's much deserved. He went through a tough stretch in late January, February. It's just so good for our goaltender's confidence, and it's good for our team's confidence."

As good as Vasilevskiy was in regulation and overtime, he was even better in the shootout, keeping his composure against a pair of skilled offensive skaters and denying both to get the win. 

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