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Burns: Three Things We Learned in Preseason Opener

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

With game one of the 2014-15 preseason in the books, it's time to digest Tuesday's action. Tampa Bay downed Nashville 4-2 at Amalie Arena, rebounding from a 2-1 deficit after two periods to score three goals in the third. Here's what we learned about the Lightning following their come-from-behind victory.

1. The hype surrounding goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy appears warranted

Highly-touted Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made his North American debut against Nashville and didn't disappoint in an impressive, 28-save performance that resulted in a victory. The 2012 first round draft choice (19th overall) wasn't rattled after giving up a pair of second period goals on "two good shots" according to head coach Jon Cooper and shut down the Predators over the final 32 minutes of the game.

"[Vasilevskiy] didn't lose composure when we were behind in the third, and he won us the game," Cooper said. "That's what you want in a goaltender, so I thought he was exceptional."

Playing last season in the Kontinental Hockey League, "a man's league" as Cooper called it, Vasilevskiy starred, going 14-8 with a 2.21 goals-against average, and in the postseason, he was even better, posting a 9-9 record with a shutout and a 1.99 GAA to lead his team to the conference finals.

Vasilevskiy will likely share the starting spot in net with Kristers Gudlevskis for the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Syracuse this season, but Tuesday, the 20-year-old proved he could help the big league club in a pinch.

"He's really athletic. He's big. He controls his angles, his rebounds," Cooper said Tuesday postgame. "It was a lot of fun to watch him."

2. The Marchessault, Namestnikov, Kucherov line could not be stopped

One line in particular – the trio of Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov -- did most of the damage against the Predators, combining for five assists and three of the Lightning's four goals.

"That line was outstanding," Cooper said.

Marchessault, making his Lightning debut after coming over to Tampa Bay in a trade with Columbus in March, leveled the score in the third period with a nifty spin move to find an opening inside the far post. He added a second goal with just under five minutes remaining to ice the game for the Bolts.

"We made the switch after the first (period) to put those guys together," Cooper said. "We got a righty, skill guy, little speed on there and I thought just added a really good dimension to that line."

Marchessault led all scorers with two goals and also had an assist. Namestnikov had a team-high three assists and Kucherov added a goal and an assist. Marchessault and Kucherov tied for a game-high five shots.

"They're fast, skilled, they play with pace and they're hungry around the net," Cooper said. "(Marchessault) had two, but (Kucherov) and (Namestnikov), they could have had a boatload. They were around the net the whole game. You want to see that from those guys."

3. The Lightning's much-maligned penalty kill has improved, at least for one preseason game anyway

Tampa Bay ranked 23rd out of 30 NHL teams a season ago on the penalty kill with an 80.7% success rate defending the power play, a special teams deficiency that plagued the team all season.

Although it was only one game -- a preseason game at that -- with a hodgepodge of players that may or may not be on the roster once the regular season begins, the Lightning looked much more confident on the penalty kill against Nashville.

The Predators had five separate man-advantage situations and never really threatened to score on any of them. In total, Nashville had seven power-play shots, four of which came on one power play midway through the first period.

Tampa Bay, in turn, had four short-handed shots on goal.

Fingers crossed, this trend continues for the Lightning throughout the preseason and into the regular season.

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