NHL Bubble Wrap: Vasilevskiy, Kucherov shine again for Lightning

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final thanks to a late goal from Nikita Kucherov.
  • They did so with only nine forwards for most of the game due to an ejection and an injury to a key player.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy shined again in net for the Lightning.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning 2, New York Islanders 1 (Lightning lead series 2-0)

    Thanks to an ejection to Alex Killorn and an injury to Brayden Point (not to mention the continued absence of Steven Stamkos), the Tampa Bay Lightning played most of Game 2 with only nine forwards and were still able to get a 2-1 Game 2 win. It gives them a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final over the New York Islanders. Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning penalty kill kept them in it, and then Nikita Kucherov came through in the clutch by scoring the game-winning goal with just eight seconds to play in regulation. The Islanders had a five-minute power play, a two-man advantage, and a shorthanded Lightning roster across from them and were still unable to get the win. This is going to be one they regret if they do not come back in this series. The Lightning had no current update on the status of Point following the game.


    Three Stars

    1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is the only team that has used just one goalie in the Return To Play, with Vasilevskiy logging every minute of every game so far. He continues to prove why he is one of the league’s best goalies, and perhaps even the best goalie. He stopped 27 out of 28 shots on Wednesday night, including all 13 shots he faced on the penalty kill to help the Lightning kill off a five-minute major penalty and a third period two-man disadvantage. He gave them a chance when they did not play their best game. He now has a .932 save percentage and a 12-3-0 record in his 15 appearances this postseason.

    2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. No Stamkos, no Point, no problem.  At least not on this night because they still have Kucherov. His goal with eight seconds to play turned out to be the difference and helps to strengthen his Conn Smythe argument. He now has six goals and 22 total points in 15 games this postseason. This is his first game-winning goal of the playoffs this year.

    3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. Just another day at the office for Hedman as he logged a team-high 26 minutes (seven more minutes than any other defenseman on the team), scored his seventh goal of the playoffs to tie the game off of an offensive zone face-off late in the first period, and was a constant force in his own zone to help keep the Islanders off the scoreboard for most of the night. The Lightning have All-Star level talent and franchise players at every position, and Hedman might be the most important piece of them all. He has a goal in four consecutive playoff games for the Lightning.

    Highlights of the Night

    Kucherov’s game-winning goal was set up by an absolutely incredible pass from Ryan McDonagh.

    Will the Lightning have Alex Killorn for Game 3 of the series after this hit on Brock Nelson early in the first period? He could face some supplemental discipline from the league.

    Hedman scores his seventh goal of the playoffs to tie the game late in the first period.


    • Victor Hedman’s goal-scoring streak is now at four games. That is one game away from tying an NHL Playoff record. [NHL PR]
    • The Lightning have a 2-0 series lead and have done very well in this situation before. [NHL PR]
    • Kucherov’s goal gives him seven career game-winning goals in the playoffs. That is one goal away from tying the franchise record held by Martin St. Louis and Tyler Johnson [NHL PR]

    Thursday Schedule

    Game 3: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Livestream (Series tied 1-1)

    • Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final schedule

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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