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Burns: 3 Things we learned from shutting out Montreal

Bryan Burns on taking the game to Montreal, a defensive improvement and Sergachev's physicality

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots sent his way to backstop the Bolts to a 4-0 shutout victory over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at AMALIE Arena and close out a season-long five-game homestand.

The Lightning scored early and often against the Habs. Victor Hedman found the back of the net just 49 seconds into the contest and Alex Killorn converted a 2-on-1 odd-man rush later in the period to give the Bolts a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Nikita Kucherov scored late in the second period and Hedman tacked on a power-play marker with 1:04 to go for his second goal of the game and the 4-0 final.

Tampa Bay finished the four-game series against Montreal with a perfect 4-0-0 record, sweeping the regular season series from the Canadiens for just the second time in franchise history (also: 5-0-0 in 2014-15).

The Lightning also got back in the win column after dropping five of their previous six contests, taking advantage of a Montreal team that was without top players Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

Here's how the Bolts rolled to a dominating performance.

Video: MTL@TBL: Killorn roofs wrister over Price fon 2-on-1

1. DICTATING PLAY
Following Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the NHL-leading Boston Bruins, Alex Killorn said the Lightning were waiting to see which Boston team they would get early in that contest. They were too passive, allowing the Bruins to control the pace of the game and open up a 2-0 lead the Lightning couldn't overcome.

Tampa Bay was determined not to let that happen for a second-straight game.

The Lightning dictated play from the opening shift and were rewarded early when Nikita Kucherov slipped a puck into the high slot for Victor Hedman, and the Bolts defenseman shot past Montreal goalie Carey Price to record his 10th goal of the season, his seventh-straight season with 10 or more goals.

Hedman is one of just three active defensemen to score at least 10 goals in seven-consecutive seasons, joining Roman Josi and Brent Burns.

Later in the first period with the Lightning still in command, Anthony Cirelli ignited a two-on-one rush with Alex Killorn that Killorn converted by burying a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Price to extend Tampa Bay's advantage to 2-0.

Holding the lead from the first minute, the Lightning were able to make the Canadiens play the game on their terms.

"I think we've been playing catchup the last few games," Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. "It was nice to play with the lead. I thought we did a good job in the first two periods jumping on them."

Once Kucherov scored a late second-period goal, Maroon throwing a puck from the wall toward the goal, putting it right on the stick for a charging Kucherov to redirect into the net, the 3-0 lead ended any Montreal hopes of finding a way back into the contest.

"You've just got to munch points when you can, especially against a team that was shorthanded like Montreal tonight," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I'm sure they thought Gallagher was going to play tonight, so he doesn't. Tatar gets hurt, so you've got to take advantage of situations like that and we did."

Video: MTL@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes 32 saves to record shutout

2. PROVIDING THE DEFENSIVE TEMPLATE
During their four-game losing skid, the Lightning gave up a combined 21 goals, an average of over five a game.

For a team whose ambition is to limit opponents to two or less goals a game, that four-game stretch was a wild departure from the way the Bolts wanted to defend.

In the three games since, the Lightning have been better defensively. They gave up three goals in a 4-3 win over Calgary to end the skid. They only allowed two to Boston but didn't have an answer for the Bruins' defense in a 2-1 loss Tuesday.

And on Thursday, the Lightning provided the template for how they want to play defensively for the rest of the season in a 4-0 shutout of the Canadiens.

Tampa Bay allowed 32 shots on goal, more than it would probably like. But most of those shots came from the perimeter. The Lightning didn't allow the Canadiens to get good looks from the inside. They cleared away rebounds before any Habs player could get a second-chance opportunity. And the pucks that did find their way on goal were seen clearly by Vasilevskiy because the Lightning did a good job cleaning up the front of the net.

"You ask them to be more responsible on the other side of the puck, they were tonight," Cooper said.

Still, the Lightning weren't completely satisfied with their defensive effort despite recording their fourth shutout of the season. There were a few too many odd-man rushes given up. They had to kill off three penalties, more than they'd like to in a game. And Vasilevskiy had to come up with a couple better-than-average saves to preserve his shutout.

The fact the Bolts still think they have work to do to become a better defensively is a good sign for a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations.

Overall, however, the Lightning are getting back to being that stout defensive team we saw when they went on 10-game and 11-game win streaks over the last couple months.

"We still didn't play well defensively, gave up some odd-mans, but we capitalized on our chances and didn't let them score so that's huge," Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. "Vasy was just a rock behind us."

Video: Sergachev on Bolts level of physicality in victory

3. SERGACHEV CAN THROW HANDS
Earlier in the season, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Mikhail Sergachev had taken that next step in his career once he learned how to play more physical and use his big body to his advantage.

Montreal's Shea Weber got an up-close-and-personal view of Sergachev's progression.

At the end of the second period with the Lightning ahead comfortably 3-0, a dustup started in the corner, Ben Chiarot and Barclay Goodrow being the main instigators. After it seemed everything had died down and the teams would head to their respective rooms, Sergachev and Weber dropped the gloves next to the Lightning net. Sergachev unleashed a barrage of jabs into Weber's head, bobbed out of the way when Weber tried to counter with a wild hook and took Weber down to the ground.

The fight didn't end there, though, as both combatants got back up on their skates and traded a couple more shots before ending it.

Weber is one of the tougher players in the NHL and, at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, one of the League's more imposing figures too.

That mattered little to Sergachev, who by all accounts won the fight.

"He's getting more confident I can tell you that," Cooper said. "I'm not sure he knew who he was dealing with at the time that went on. I don't know how all that started. It's a man's game and tempers flare, but probably something he wouldn't have done a couple years ago. He's way more comfortable doing it. He was going up against a really tough guy."

Sergachev refuses to be pushed around on the ice. He's delivered punishing hits with regularity these days and seems to play with an edge that wasn't there his first couple seasons in the League.

His fighting skills weren't a surprise to at least one of his teammates, however.

"He's a big boy. He was born in Russia. There's always something happening on the streets," Vasilevskiy said, smiling. "It wasn't a big surprise for me."

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