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Lightning out to assist Vasilevskiy

Tampa Bay says it must do more to support young goalie in Game 7 in Pittsburgh

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- As Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy prepared for his first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, his teammates were hoping they can do more to help him deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins offense.

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Vasilevskiy, 21, is expected to make his sixth consecutive start since No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop was carried off the ice on a stretcher during the first period of Game 1 with a lower-body injury.

Vasilevskiy has a .918 save percentage and has faced 36.7 shots per game in the series. Pittsburgh has controlled possession in its offensive zone for much of the series and has scored three or more goals against Vasilevskiy in the past five games.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Crosby splits D, beats Vasilevskiy

Defenseman Anton Stralman said he has full confidence in Vasilevskiy and it's up to the Lightning to provide more support for him.

"I think [Vasilevskiy has] been great," Stralman said. "I think he's been giving us a chance to win every time he's been in. Unfortunately, we maybe haven't delivered for him as much as we wanted, but he's been tremendous. And I said this before, it doesn't matter who's in net for us. We have tremendous faith in both of them, and they're two really, really good goalies. We feel very fortunate to have those guys."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Vasilevskiy has the advantage of having won in Pittsburgh twice; he made 31 saves in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5 and had 25 saves after relieving Bishop in a 3-1 win in Game 1.

"I think Andrei is the big reason we're in Game 7," Cooper said. "He's made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that's happened to him finally in this series is he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he's won in Pittsburgh. So you've got to [think] the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that."

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Vasilevskiy stops Bonino's chance

Tampa Bay should feel comfortable in Game 7 on the road because it's the second consecutive season the Lightning have faced this situation. Last year, Bishop had a 22-save shutout and the Lightning defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 at Madison Square Garden to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Stralman, who is 7-0 in Game 7s during his NHL career, said the Lightning can draw from that experience Thursday.

"I think the mix of the type of players we have and everything is good," Stralman said. "I think we have some veteran presence that can help out, but I think just the experience from last year, how we've been through this together, is a big part of this. I'm sure all those memories from last year is kind of building up inside us right now, and we're going to find that same type of energy and calmness that we just talked about."

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