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Burns: 3 things we learned from blanking the Flyers

The Lightning beat the Flyers 3-0 on Saturday afternoon

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Andrei Vasilevskiy started his first NHL game two seasons ago in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center (Dec. 16, 2014) and delivered on the enormous potential heaped upon him when the Lightning selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, stopping 23-of-24 shots to pick up his first career win.

On Saturday, Vasilevskiy continued to make memorable moments in the City of Brotherly Love.

In a rare day game, Vasilevskiy saved all 32 shots Philadelphia sent his way in a 3-0 shutout victory for Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy has recorded shutouts in consecutive games, becoming just the sixth Lightning goaltender all-time to do so.

Vasilevskiy hasn't given up a goal since the Islanders' Andrew Ladd scored in the second period of a 4-1 Lightning victory on November 10, a shutout streak of 151 minutes for the Russian netminder

Vasilevskiy was probably the biggest reason the Lightning left Philadelphia with their fourth-consecutive victory.

But a couple more also helped, which we'll examine in today's 3 Things.

 

Video: TBL@PHI: Johnson buries Killorn's pass for PPG1. ANOTHER STRONG START

Throughout the first 15 games of the season, Tampa Bay often found itself on the wrong end of the score board following the first 20 minutes of action, the Lighting ranking near the bottom of the NHL for first-period goals and, in an all-too-familiar theme, forced to play catchup to win.

The Lightning, in fact, owned a first-period lead in just three of their first 15 games.

Those slow starts have become a thing of the past, however.

For the fourth-consecutive game, the Lightning grabbed the game's opening goal and held on to the lead going into the first intermission. On Saturday, Tyler Johnson connected on the Bolts' first power play, tapping the puck into a wide-open net on the back post after Alex Killorn drew the defense toward him with a charge into the left circle, leaving Johnson all alone.

Johnson extended his point streak to three games (goal, 2 assists) after an up-and-down beginning to the season.

The Lightning have played from in front during the current road trip, scoring the opening goal and forcing teams to chase. Not coincidentally, the Lightning have won four games in a row.

Overall, Tampa Bay improved to 7-0-0 this season when leading after the first period.

Continued strong starts for the Lightning bode well for their push toward the top of the Atlantic and the division leading Montreal Canadiens, who the Lightning trail by just three points now following their win Saturday afternoon.

 

Video: TBL@PHI: Vasilevskiy robs Voracek from the circle2. POWER OUTAGE
Philadelphia entered Saturday's game with the league's second-best power play, connecting on 27 percent of their man-advantage opportunities.

The Lightning were nearly as good on the power play, converting 25.7 percent of their attempts and ranking third in the NHL, Saturday's matchup shaping up as one where special teams could be the difference.

Which is exactly what happened in the Lightning's 3-0 win, just not in the expected way.

Philadelphia went on the power play five separate times against the Lightning, but the Bolts' penalty kill was up to the task each time, snuffing out any Grade-A scoring chances for the Flyers and not allowing Philly to build any momentum from its power play.

The Lightning blocked a season-high 21 shots on Saturday, a majority of those coming on the penalty kill with the Bolts selling out to stop the puck.

When the puck did make its way through to the net, Vasilevskiy was locked in.

"He's tracking every puck," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said of his starting goalie following the game. "He's playing the puck well. When…stuff's getting a little scrambly, he's like the calm in the storm, and he's just swallowing pucks. He was great for us tonight."

The Lightning penalty kill was great too, the combination of Vasy and the PKers keeping the Flyers off the scoreboard with a stellar effort throughout the 60-minute affair.

 

3. WALKING WOUNDED

At some point during Saturday's brutal battle in Philly, Ryan Callahan, Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov all missed a shift or two due to injury. A couple guys like Drouin and Point missed multiple shifts, Point coming back to the bench in the third period with a cage covering his face and a nasty cut on his lip

Injuries have already taken their toll on the Lightning this season with Anton Stralman missing all four games of the current road trip with an upper-body injury and the announcement on Thursday Steven Stamkos would miss approximately four months of the season after having surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

Before Saturday's game in Philly, Brian Boyle was announced as a scratch with an upper-body injury, forcing the Bolts to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen and draw Luke Witkowski in for his first appearance of the season.

The Lightning can ill-afford to lose more players, but against the Flyers, it seemed every shift another player was heading to the locker room in pain.

"It was tough on the bench because at one point I'm looking down and I think we had six guys sitting there," Cooper said. "You know, it takes you out of your rhythm. It was big for us we got the lead. And we were able to hang on in the second and go to the third with a lead, that was big for us, especially with all the guys we were losing."

The fact the Lightning are exiting these hard-hitting affairs with a win and two points is encouraging and speaks to the Bolts' depth and resilience.

But the number of injuries Tampa Bay is sustaining of late is deeply concerning.

 

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