This was another game in which the Lightning leaned heavily on Andrei Vasilevskiy. And, as he has done so often in his career, Vasilevskiy delivered a magnificent performance.
This one had some similarities to the Thursday contest in Columbus. In both, the Lightning yielded 18 first period shots and lots of scoring chances. Then, they allowed a total of 18 shots over the final two periods.
So Vasilevskiy was at his busiest in the first period. Nashville began tilting the ice in earnest following Ross Colton's opening goal at 6:45. The play started with a nice pass up the middle from Mikhail Sergachev to Yanni Gourde, who raced into the Nashville end. At the right circle, he spun away from Ben Harpur and slid the puck to an open Colton in the slot. Colton finished a backhander through the pads of Pekka Rinne, netting his seventh goal of the season and third in as many games.
But after Colton's goal, the rest of the period belonged to the Predators. They played at a faster pace than the Lightning and, as a result, dominated possession time. They broke into the Tampa Bay zone with ease and enjoyed long, sustained shifts. They also created plenty of scoring chances. Vasilevskiy, however, tuned them all aside.
After the first period, the Lightning picked up their pace of play and were able to level possession. But the Preds still had their looks. Vasilevskiy made several additional point-blank saves. He got help from the goal post in the second period when Luke Kunin shot rang off the pipe. He also received assistance from Lightning Video Coaches Nigel Kirwan and Brian Garlock. Early in the second period, Ryan Ellis took a point shot that deflected off a Lightning player and past Vasilevskiy. But as Ellis pulled the puck back to wrist it, the puck came outside the blue line. The Lightning successfully challenged the play for being off-side and the Ellis goal came off the board.
At the other end of the ice, the Lightning didn't generate a high volume of scoring chances during the final two periods. But they did own more possession time than they had in the first. And they were efficient at getting pucks to the net when they had an opportunity. After posting just five shots on goal in the first, they recorded 29 shots during the second and third periods. They added to their lead at 14:04 of the second on a play that began with a Brayden Point puck battle win in the neutral zone. Point forced the puck forward into the offensive zone along the boards and nudged it to Ondrej Palat at the left circle. Four Nashville defenders came to Point and Palat, leaving the middle of the ice open. Cernak took a pass from Palat and skated to the slot. His shot deflected off both Mikhail Granlund and Ellis before entering the net.
The Lightning's team defensive play in front of Vasilevskiy may not have been as tight as the team would have liked. But it did improve as the game progressed. We'll see if they can limit the number of overall scoring chances when they face the Preds on Tuesday.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 36-save shutout.
2. Yanni Gourde - Lightning. Goal and assist.
3. Ross Colton - Lightning. Goal.