Just as he did in Saturday's victory over Dallas, Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded a shutout. In doing so, he became the first Lightning goalie in franchise history to post three consecutive shutouts. There were other similarities to Saturday's triumph. Ondrej Palat netted a first period power play goal, a tally that turned out to be the game-winner in both contests. Each goal occurred just seconds into the man advantage. The Lightning's penalty kill had another strong outing on Tuesday, going three-for-three. The unit had gone six-for-six on Saturday and has now killed 17 consecutive penalties.
But unlike Saturday, this was not an especially clean a performance for the Lightning. They struggled with puck management, endured coverage issues, and were forced to lean heavily on Vasilevskiy.
The Stars entered the game with just one win in their last nine and in last place in the Discover Central Division. They were coming off a poor showing in Saturday's defeat to the Lightning. So it was not surprising that Dallas played a spirited, hungry game. They forechecked aggressively and produced a number of extended, offensive zone shifts. They also were successful in generating scoring chances. In the first period alone, a frame in which he stopped 11 Dallas shots, Vasilevskiy likely dealt with more dangerous looks than he had in the entire game on Saturday. In the opening minute, he stopped Jamie Oleksiak on a three-on-one rush. Later in the first, he made three tough stops in quick succession on Joe Pavelski (one) and Jamie Benn (two). One of his best saves of the entire evening came late in the first when he denied Andrew Cogliano's open look from the low slot.
The Lightning recorded just five first period shots, but one of those went in the net. Blake Comeau was whistled for interference at 7:19 and the Lightning went on the game's first power play. On Saturday, Palat jumped on a loose puck in the slot and roofed a shot into the Dallas net, scoring just three seconds into a man advantage. In this game, he would tally his team-leading sixth power play goal of the season (a new personal best) only 10 seconds after Comeau's penalty. Steven Stamkos won the offensive zone face-off, allowing the Lightning to begin the power play with possession. Moments later, Stamkos, positioned at the left circle, passed to Victor Hedman at the center point. Hedman touched the puck to Palat at the right circle and Palat one-timed his shot past Anton Khudobin.
Earlier in the day, assistant coach Jeff Halpern did a Zoom interview with the media. He was asked about the decision earlier in the season to move Brayden Point out of that right circle spot and instead slotting Palat at that location. He mentioned how having a leftie at the right circle creates one-timer opportunities, just like the one that Palat buried. (Of course, this is where Nikita Kucherov typically plays during a Lightning man advantage).
The Lightning's coverage tightened up in the second period, although their puck play remained sloppy at times. They still dealt with some extended d-zone shifts, though they greatly reduced the number of Dallas scoring chances. Still, Vasilevskiy had to make a terrific save on a Benn shot during a two-on-one. Vasilevskiy got enough of Benn's shot to deflect the puck's trajectory so that it hit off the post.
The Stars pushed hard in the third and forced Vasilevskiy to come up with several more key saves. Early in the frame, Roope Hintz split the Lightning defense and Vasilevskiy denied his in-alone chance. Later, Vasilevskiy stopped Jason Dickinson's open look from the slot. He made two other strong saves on Miro Heiskanen's individual rush chances.
The third period also featured two excellent Lightning penalty kills. One of Heiskanen's rush opportunities came during the second of those man advantages, but for the most part, the Stars were quiet during those four minutes of power play time.
Yanni Gourde sealed the win with an empty-netter at 19:55. But the work he did prior to the empty-netter was just as important. Deep in the Dallas end, he protected the puck from four Stars players for 10-15 seconds. Moments later, he was rewarded with the empty-net goal.
The Lightning recorded a season-low 19 shots on net. Only 12 of those came during five-on-five play. Some of that meager shot total stemmed from their wobbly puck management. But they also missed the net with 21(!) shot attempts. That's another stat reflecting how the Lightning weren't as crisp as they have been in most of their other contests this season. But they were crisp enough to grab two points, thanks to their execution on that first period power play. And, of course, another splendid evening of work from Vasilevskiy.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Bobby "The Chief" Taylor):
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. Third shutout in a row. 28 saves.
2. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Assist.
3. Yanni Gourde - Lightning. ENG.