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Burns: Three things we learned from sweeping a two-game homestand

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over the Kings

by Bryan Burns /

Well, that one had a little bit of everything, eh?

Tampa Bay defeated Los Angeles 4-3 at AMALIE Arena Saturday night, winning its second game in a row and picking up its fourth win in its last five games.

The Lightning didn't make it easy on themselves, however.

After sprinting out to a 4-1 lead after two periods of play, the Lightning held on for dear life, relying on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy too often in a chew-your-fingernails final 20 minutes of play.

Vasilevskiy was up to the task, stopping a season-high 44 shots, the second-most regular season saves for his career, including one of the most spectacular saves you'll see anywhere in the opening period.

The game turned chippy at times, particularly when the Kings' Dustin Brown took out the left leg of Mikhail Sergachev, a hit that sent the Lightning defenseman to the locker room for the latter half of the second period.

The Bolts fought through the adversity, however, to pick up their 38th win and 79th point on the season.

Oh, and there was a banner-raising ceremony for Vinny Lecavalier, a pre-game event that felt like it happened a day earlier after the theatrics of the contest to follow.

The Lightning won't feel particularly good about their win, but they'll still take the two points and the regular season sweep of the Kings.

Ahead, Three Things we learned from holding on against the Kings

It's only natural that two of the biggest superstars in Tampa Bay Lightning history now occupy space next to one another in the AMALIE Arena rafters.

Vincent Lecavalier had his No. 4 retired in a pre-game ceremony Saturday, becoming the second Lightning player to receive the honor, joining longtime teammate and friend Martin St. Louis, who had his 26 retired last season.

Video: LAK@TBL: Lecavalier's #4 raised to rafters in Tampa

Former teammate Brad Richards spoke of the incredible bond he developed with Lecavalier when the two played together in the QMJHL for Rimouski.

"The one thing I always talk about Vinny is his loyalty as a friend, how honest and true you are and always have been," Richards said.

Former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster credited Lecavalier with his career and success as a NHL GM and said Lecavalier was like "being with rock 'n roll royalty" when the team went north of the border.
"He was the maple leaf Elvis," Feaster joked.

Lightning founder Phil Esposito said when he went with his scouts to Rimouski to look at Lecavalier when deciding whether to select him with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, he came away convinced after the first period of the first game.

"Why are we wasting our time?" Esposito asked his scouts, adding, "Not only do I want Lecavalier, I want that other guy that plays with him, Brad Richards."

But through all the accolades and Lightning records and trophies Lecavalier collected during his career, the main takeaway from Saturday night's ceremony was the respect he garnered from his peers for his grace and charitable contributions.

Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman skated out to present Lecavalier with a gift from the Lightning, a custom-designed watch.

Said perfectly by Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik: "A classy watch for a classy individual."

Well done, Vinny.

Lightning teammates have started calling goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy the Big Cat because of his cat-like reflexes.

But not even the most dexterous of felines could have gotten its paw on the puck Vasilevskiy saved on a Los Angeles first period power play.

The Kings' Anze Kopitar unleashed a shot from the left wing near the goal line that had designs on traveling behind Vasilevskiy and catching the inside of the far post. Except Vasilevskiy stuck his glove behind his back and blindly swiped the puck out of mid-air for the save of the season so far for the Lightning and perhaps the entire NHL.

Video: LAK@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes crazy behind-the-back save

"That's up there for sure," Stamkos said after the game. "Definitely one of the best saves I've ever seen live."

Vasilevskiy even had the presence of mind to keep his glove still as it hovered over the goal line after making the stop, so as to not accidentally handle it into the goal.

"He's the best," Anton Stralman said, chuckling while recalling the save. "There's no doubt in my mind."

Asked after the game what he could see on the phenomenal stop, Vasilevskiy said he didn't see anything.
"I just realized that I don't have enough time to be square to the puck so I made a decision to turn the other way and got lucky," he said.

Lucky? Sure.

Unbelievable? You bet.

Are Lightning fans surprised?

Not a chance.

Tampa Bay has developed a disturbing habit of late of jumping out to sizable leads but allowing its opponent to get back in the game in the final period.

It happened Thursday night against Vancouver when the Canucks rallied from 4-0 down to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the Lightning sealed the win on Victor Hedman's power-play goal.

Again on Saturday, the third period almost did in the Bolts if not for the phenomenal play of Vasilevskiy.

Los Angeles registered 20 shots in the final frame, tied for the most the Lightning have allowed in a period this season, and got to within 4-3 just under seven minutes to play to turn what should have been a feel-good victory into a hold-onto-your-seat finish.

Stralman was asked what's led to the Lightning's third-period woes.

Video: Stralman | Postgame TBL 4, LAK 3

"Structure is a good start and decision making with or without the puck," he replied. "I wouldn't be standing here if I had a good answer for you. It's just something we have to look at and really when we come into these situations just dig in. A lot of times the easy play is the right play. Sometimes we overcomplicate things."

Vasilevskiy bailed the Lightning out down the stretch, making a point-blank save on a tipped shot and the Kings net empty with a minute to go. After Hedman cleared a puck from the zone for an icing with 0.6 seconds remaining, the Kings were still able to get a shot off on the face-off, Drew Doughty blasting a one timer on frame.

Vasilevskiy again came up with the big-time stop.

"I feel a little ashamed we had to depend on him that much," Stralman admitted. 

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