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Burns: 3 Things from shutting out the Blue Jackets

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 2-0 win over Columbus

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay's Russian foursome led the charge in the Lightning's 2-0 blanking of Columbus at Nationwide Arena to cap a highly-successful three-game road trip.

Young defenseman Mikhail Sergachev scored a pair of goals for the only scoring the Lightning would need. Nikita Kucherov tallied assists on both to extend his season-opening scoring streak to eight games.

Vladislav Namestnikov picked up an assist on Sergachev's first goal to set a new career high for points in consecutive games (5).

And, most importantly, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 43 pucks in the shutout win.

The Lightning have now garnered points in five-straight games and move back into the top spot in the NHL standings with 13 points.

How'd they get there?

We'll recap last night's victory and the road trip as a whole in Three Things from blanking the Blue Jackets.

Video: TBL@CBJ: Sergachev fires home first two NHL goals

1. SERGACHEV STICKING?

Mikhail Sergachev has nine games to make the case he deserves to stay in the NHL this season.

He's got a pretty good argument going so far.

On Thursday, Sergachev netted two goals, the first two goals of his NHL career, to pace the Lightning offensively in a 2-0 win. He joins Steven Stamkos (2008-09), Mark Barberio (2013-14), Cedric Paquette (2014-15) and Slater Koekkoek (2017-18) as the only players to score their first two in one game.

This followed a game in New Jersey on Tuesday where he tallied two assists to record the first multi-point game of his career.

In his last four games, Sergachev has scored in three, putting up two goals and three assists.

"He's actually made great strides as a player just in his first eight games in the league, especially these last couple games have been his strongest of the year," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "He's earning his ice time now, and he's earning power-play time. It's just a learning process, but you can see the skill he has. He's got the shot. One thing was the slap shot [for the first goal] but then to come right down Broadway [on the second goal] and pick a corner like that, that just shows the skill set he has."

Sergachev skated in game No. 8 of the season on Thursday. He can play in one more game before the Lightning have a decision to make. If Sergachev suits up for a 10th game, his entry-level contract starts and it's likely he'll stick with Tampa Bay for the duration of the season. Or, if the Lightning decide Sergachev needs more seasoning, he can go back to his junior team in Windsor.

It's a no-lose situation for the Lightning.

But Sergachev has certainly shown during his brief trial period he's capable of being a factor in the NHL.

Which means you can probably take the question mark off the above heading.

 Video: TBL@CBJ: Vasilevskiy denies Murray's backhander

2. VASILEVSKIY GETS HIS DUE
Ask Tyler Johnson who the best player for the Lightning over the first eight games has been, and he'll tell you it's goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Pose the same question to Cooper, and he'll give you the same answer.

Despite Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pacing the NHL for scoring through the first seven games or Kucherov's unbelievable goal streak to open the season, it's Vasilevskiy that's looked at by the Lightning as the player who's done the most to help the them win games (now six of their first eight).

But even with his stellar play, Vasilevskiy's numbers, other than his win total, haven't been as good as he would like, specifically his goals-against average and save percentage.

On Thursday, Vasilevskiy was able to get those numbers more in line with how he's played to start the season.

He picked up his fifth career shutout - and first of the season - in the 2-0 blanking of Columbus, the Russian stopping all 43 pucks to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard.

Vasilevskiy's 43 saves were the most he's made in a shutout effort and the third-most in a shutout in Lightning history.

Going back to last season, Vasilevskiy is 18-5-2 over his last 25 starts and has the most wins in the NHL.

It could be argued there's been no better goaltender in the NHL since last season's trade deadline when Vasilevskiy took over as the Bolts' unquestioned No. 1 in net.

 

3. ROAD WARRIORS

The Lightning faced three tough opponents playing at the top of their game during the recently-completed three-game road trip.

The Bolts fared well in all three and proved, at least early, they're one of the top teams themselves in the league.

Tampa Bay went into Detroit to play its first game at Little Caesars Arena against a Red Wings team tied with the Lightning and Toronto for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and downed the Wings 3-2.

A night later, the Bolts nearly bested the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils before falling in a shootout.

And again on Thursday, Tampa Bay shut down a top divisional team, Columbus entering Thursday's game tied with New Jersey as the best team in the Metro.

"This is a tough league to win in regardless, but Detroit was 4-1 and New Jersey was 4-1 and now you've got a 5-1 team [in Columbus] and to come on the road with three (games) in four (days) and get five of six points, extremely pleased," Cooper said. "But what I really liked tonight was just the defensive effort. You look at the stat sheet and say we gave up 40 shots or whatever it was, but most of them were harmless. And I thought we kept them to the outside. Would I have liked to have generated more in the second and third, got a little bit away from why we had success in the first, but bottom line is the guys dug in deep in our zone and we were able to get two points out of it."

In winning six of its first eight games, the Lightning have taken down the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners in Washington, last year' s playoff surprise Columbus in Columbus, a St. Louis team that's made the playoffs six-consecutive seasons and given the Bolts fits in recent memory along with Detroit and Florida.

Certainly, the Lightning's start to 2017-18 has been better than even the most optimistic supporter could envision.

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