3 Takeaways: Vasilevskiy saves Lightning vs. Canadiens in Stanley Cup Final Game 2

Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final was close, but it seemed appropriate that the Lightning won against the Canadiens. In Game 2, the Canadiens must feel robbed — mostly by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

No doubt, Vasilevskiy (and that incredible Blake Coleman goal) headlined the Lightning’s 3-1 win against the Canadiens in Game 2. There was more to it than that, though, so let’s drill into three takeaways from Game 2 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

1. Vasilevskiy’s Vezina vengeance? Either way, a firm display of dominance

On Tuesday, the 2021 NHL Awards presented a mild surprise, as Marc-Andre Fleury beat out Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Vezina Trophy. In Game 2 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Vasilevskiy sure looked like the no-doubt-about-it best goalie in the world.

Personally, it brought back memories of Hakeem Olajuwon dismantling David Robinson after Robinson beat out “The Dream” for NBA MVP.

Or, maybe you’d prefer Michael Jordan torching Karl Malone and/or anyone who had the audacity to win the MVP in the Age of Airness?

Does this mean that Vasilevskiy “took that personally?” Should someone Photoshop Vasilevskiy making faces while reading about Fleury winning the Vezina on some tablet?

Nah, it’s probably a coincidence. After all, even though Price received a ton of (justified) press heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Vasilevskiy’s actually put up slightly better numbers. (Even before the distance widened after Game 1 and 2.)

[Fleury wins 2021 Vezina over Vasilevskiy]

Whatever stock you put into Vezina motivation, Vasilevskiy was the difference-maker in Game 2. He made 42 out of 43 saves. And Vasilevskiy has a tendency to make tough saves look easy to the point where it has to be a bit debilitating for Lightning opponents.

Again, Vasilevskiy is making this stuff pretty routine. Here’s an impressive stat from the NHL about Vasilevskiy’s playoff dominance after Game 2:

Andrei Vasilevskiy (42 saves) recorded his sixth career playoff outing with 40-plus saves, already the most by a Lightning goaltender in franchise history. His four performances with 40 or more saves over the last two postseasons are also the most among all goaltenders, ahead of
Darcy Kuemper and Semyon Varlamov (both with three).

2. Big bounce back from Canadiens — but they still need to be better

PHT’s Adam Gretz called for a better performance from the line of Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, and Nick Suzuki in his 3 Keys to Game 2.

By just about every measure, that trio was much better in Game 2. They even generated Montreal’s lone goal against Vasilevskiy, a funky power-play tally for Suzuki.

  • Via Natural Stat Trick, Suzuki – Caufield – Toffoli generated a 10-4 scoring chance advantage, and a 4-0 high-danger edge at even-strength.
  • They combined for a whopping 14 shots on goal in Game 2, including an absurd nine by Suzuki. They made more than a few dangerous things happen in rush situations.

After Game 1, a lot of attention went the way of Phillip Danault‘s shutdown line. While Luke Richardson/Dominique Ducharme will want to put Danault’s trio in the right situations with the last change in Game 3 in Montreal on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock), there are times when you can’t control everything. So it has to be heartening that Toffoli – Caufield – Suzuki looked more dynamic and dangerous in Game 2.

But the Canadiens didn’t dominate Game 2 as much in some of the key areas, making this a little bit less about Vasilevskiy carrying the Lightning.

Now, different people tabulate expected goals/”Grade-A chances”/other factors in different ways. For example: by Natural Stat Trick’s tally, the Canadiens generated a slight 7-6 advantage in high-danger chances at even-strength.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Still, the point is that the Canadiens still emulated the quantity-over-quality elements that doomed their last opponents, the Golden Knights, at times. Vegas often controlled the shot share, but sometimes settled for quantity over quality.

The Canadiens have a lot to build on from Game 2, and the Lightning have to want to balance things out better.

Still, Montreal needs to get to the “high price real estate” areas of the ice more often. At least if Vasilevskiy can match, or even outplay, Price as the 2021 Stanley Cup Final continues.

3. Why Game 2 loss burns the Canadiens a bit extra

Via the NHL, the Lightning are 8-0-0 after taking 2-0 playoff series leads. For all of the “you haven’t really lost a playoff series until you lose at home” talk, that’s a scary thought against the defending champions.

But it stings a little extra that Montreal was so close to making this 1-1.  (In case you were wondering, the Lightning are 12-6 in series that were tied 1-1.)

Let’s consider some of the factors that might add some salt to Montreal’s post-Game-2-wounds:

  • Again, they generally outplayed Tampa Bay, including that gaudy 43-23 SOG disparity. Even if the quality goes the other way, it’s tough to overcome that much of a possession difference. This holds particularly true when you consider the funky nature of Game 2’s first two goals.
  • How often can the Habs realistically win the special teams battle? Frankly, they’d probably take a draw most nights vs. the Bolts. In Game 2, the Canadiens went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Lightning went 0-for-3.
  • As often as Carey Price saved the Canadiens’ bacon, they more or less put him in a position to win Game 2. He could not pull it off.
  • Ondrej Palat scored that crucial 3-1 insurance goal. Still, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point went pointless in Game 2, and the Canadiens still lost. Ouch.
  • The Canadiens managed the puck better in Game 2, but the Lightning made them pay dearly when they failed to.

[MORE: Lightning squeeze past Canadiens in Game 2]

We’ve seen teams fight back from down 2-0, and even 3-0, in fairly recent playoff series. The Golden Knights were in that situation against the Avalanche, and then rattled off four straight wins. So the Canadiens aren’t hopeless.

That said, Game 2 probably hurt the Canadiens more than Game 1, and it’s going to be tough to have such a small margin of error vs. the Lightning as the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wages on.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING (TB leads series 2-0)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) – livestream
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) – livestream
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)

*if necessary

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Stars sign Hintz to $67.6M, 8-year extension through 2030-31

    roope hintz
    Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Stars have signed center Roope Hintz, a nearly point-a-game player in the prime of his career, to a $67.6 million, eight-year contract extension.

    “He brings so much to us,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said Tuesday. “He realizes now who he is. He came into the league three, four years ago finding his way. He started out probably as the third-line center man and very responsible, and all of a sudden he’s groomed into this No. 1 center man. You can just see the confidence that he has now.”

    The 26-year-old Hintz has 88 goals and 106 assists in his 261 games over five seasons, all with Dallas, including 139 points in 142 games since the start of the 2020-21 season.

    The Finland native set career highs with 37 goals and 35 assists last season, and has eight goals and 16 assists in 22 games this season for the Central Division-leading Stars.

    The extension takes effect after the end of this season, when Hintz could have become a restricted free agent. It goes through the 2030-31 season and has an average value of $8.45 million.

    “We wanted to do something quick if we could. We didn’t want this to drag on. It’s not easy for players during the season to live through negotiations,” Nill said. “He’s a 6-foot-3, No. 1 center man in the NHL that can skate well and has got great skills and is putting up big points, so he’s a high-demand player. He’s a hard player to find.”

    The Hintz contract is identical to the one defenseman Miro Heiskanen signed before last season. Before this season, the Stars signed restricted free agent Jason Robertson a $31 million, four-year deal, and goaltender Jake Oettinger to a $12 million, three-year deal. All three of those players are 23 years old. Robertson, a 41-goal scorer last season, leads the NHL with 19 goals in 23 games this season, and also has 17 assists.

    “We now have our core signed up,” Nill said. “Trying to get this core together, keep it together for as many years as we can, and that’s why we made this move now.”

    Devils rally from two goals down to beat Rangers 5-3

    Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    NEW YORK – Jack Hughes and Michael McLeod scored in the second period, Vitek Vanecek stopped 35 shots and the surging New Jersey Devils rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Monday night.

    Yegor Sharangovich had two goals and Tomas Tatar also scored to help the first-place Devils win their third straight since having their 13-game winning streak snapped last week. New Jersey has won 10 straight road games and has only one loss since starting the season 3-3-0.

    The Rangers raced to a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the contest but the Devils scored twice to tie it later in the first period to tie it and then scored twice in the second period to take the lead.

    “We stayed with our game. There was a calmness on the bench,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of his team’s early deficit. “All I said on the bench was ‘let’s get the next goal and we’ll be back in the game.”‘

    Vanecek improved to 11-2-0 as scattered chants of “Let’s Go Devils” were heard at Madison Square Garden.

    The Devils have made the playoffs only once – in 2018 – since beating the Rangers in six games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

    “It was great to hear the fans here on our side,” Devils forward Miles Wood said. “We can’t thank them enough.”

    Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck scored and Chris Kreider had two assists for the Rangers, who fell to 4-5-3 at home. Igor Shesterkin had 33 saves.

    New York also lost its second straight at home in a disheartening fashion. The Rangers squandered a 3-0 third-period lead against Edmonton on Saturday to lose 4-3. Last season, they won 27 of 41 games at the Garden.

    “When one thing goes wrong it starts to snowball on us,” Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “We keep saying we have to play a full 60. You can’t keep talking about it, you have to go out and do it.”

    Rangers coach Gerard Gallant credited the young and hungry Devils with playing a superior game.

    “They put lots of offense at you, they play fast and they showed that,” Gallant said. “Tonight they were the better team.”

    Tatar narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 7:31 of the first with a nifty high backhand shot past Shesterkin for his sixth of the season. Jesper Bratt had an assist on the play, giving him a point in 18 for the Devils’ 23 games this season.

    Sharangovich tied it with an unassisted goal with 6:35 left in the first.

    Hughes put the Devils ahead at 5:44 of the second after he gained a stride on Lindgren before sliding the puck past Shesterkin for his 12th of the season and fourth in the last two games.

    McLeod made it 4-2 at 9:40 with his third goal after Wood hit the crossbar behind Shesterkin.

    “I have to play better,” said , who was also in goal for Saturday’s meltdown against Edmonton and has lost three of his last five games.

    It was the fourth time in their last six games the Devils scored at least four times and New Jersey improved to 9-0-0 when the 21-year-old Hughes – the top overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft – has a goal.

    Trocheck scored his eighth goal on the power play for the Rangers with 6:42 left in the third to pull within one, but Sharangovich added an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.

    The Devils improved a franchise-best 13-1-0 in November and an NHL-best 16-0-0 when leading after two periods.

    “It’s fun playing here,” Hischier said. “It feels great to beat the Rangers,?

    Panarin scored 1:20 into the game to end a personal 12-game goal-scoring drought with his sixth of the season and first since Oct. 30 at Arizona.

    Zibanejad made it 2-0 at 3:01 with his team-best 11th of the season.

    UP NEXT

    Devils: Host Nashville on Thursday night.

    Rangers: At Ottawa on Wednesday night.

    Stamkos lifts Lightning past Sabres 6-5 in OT

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    BUFFALO, N.Y. – Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game 2:44 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

    Brayden Point also had two goals, Brandon Hagel had a goal and an assist, and Corey Perry also scored for the Lightning, who rallied from two goals down in the third period to force overtime. Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev each had three assists, and Stamkos added one for a three-point night.

    Brian Elliott had 32 saves to get the win.

    “We got the breaks at the end to pull us back, some big-time players got us back into it,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

    Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost, Jeff Skinner, Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves.

    “You allow good players a little bit of extra time and a little bit of extra space, they’re going to make plays on you,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We had hesitation in our game and it was only the last 10 minutes.”

    In the extra period, Stamkos got the winner on a blast from the right circle for his 12th of the season.

    “There’s going to be games where we don’t deserve the two points and tonight was probably one of those, but we’ve been on the other side of that too,” Stamkos said.

    With the score tied at 3-3 to open the third period, the Sabres appeared to take control in the third with two goals for a 5-3 lead with a little more than 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

    Cozens put Buffalo ahead at 9:37, ripping a shot from the right circle under the crossbar and beating Elliott on the glove side. Skinner made it 5-3 with 5:41 remaining, finishing from a tight angle after an odd-man rush was initially stopped.

    However, the Lightning answered back with two goals 3 1/2 minutes apart.

    Stamkos scored just 16 seconds after Skinner’s goal to get the Lightning within one. Hagel tied it with a power-play goal with 2:02 remaining. With Elliott pulled to create a 6-on-4 advantage, Kucherov’s shot from the right circle was deflected by Hagel past Luukkonen.

    Point opened the scoring 7:54 into the game with a power-play goal from close range for his ninth.

    Perry made it 2-0 with 3:12 left in the first off a cross-ice pass from Stamkos.

    Thompson put Buffalo on the board with 2:06 left in the first, beating Elliott with some nifty stick-handling after forcing a turnover in front of the Tampa net.

    Quinn evened it 59 seconds later, finishing a nice feed from JJ Peterka on a quick offensive rush.

    Jost gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, scoring his first goal with the Sabres after he was acquired off waivers from Minnesota on Nov. 19.

    Point tied it 3-3 on the power play with 3:34 left in the second after getting a pass from Kucherov.

    INJURY RETURNS

    Each team had one player return from a recent injury. Sabres center Rasmus Asplund returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Tampa Bay forward Cole Koepke returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

    UP NEXT

    Lightning: At Boston on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: At Detroit on Wednesday night.

    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.