Eddie Pasquale

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Vasilevskiy back for Lightning after Domingue’s solid stretch of play

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Andrei Vasilevskiy will be back in goal Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs. It will be the netminder’s first appearance since a fractured foot knocked him out of the lineup a month ago. 

That loss could have spelled danger, even for a strong team like the Lightning; and general manager Julien BriseBois could have gone out and plucked a goalie off waivers or made a trade for the short-term. Instead, they rode Louis Domingue (and Eddie Pasquale for one start) to a 12-3-0 record and enter this matchup between the NHL’s top two teams on a seven-game winning streak.

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It was Nov. 2017 when the Lightning acquired Domingue from the Arizona Coyotes as an insurance policy. When Vasilevskiy’s backup at the time, Peter Budaj, got hurt, Domingue stepped into the No. 2 role and ended up starting 11 games last season.

Having already been an NHL starter in Arizona and having worked previously with Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean, it seemed like a good fit. Domingue’s play in 2017-18 earned him a two-year, $2.3M extension and he’s proven to be worth every penny so far. Not bad for a guy whose career was in limbo just before he landed in Tampa.

In Domingue’s 14 starts since Vasilevskiy’s injury he’s posted a .919 even strength save percentage while facing the second-most shots at 5-on-5 (374) over that span. It hasn’t always been pretty — he’s allowed three or more goals eight times in that stretch — but when you’re on the NHL’s top-scoring team, they’ll bail you out on a bad night more often than not.

“When your starter goes down and you know this isn’t a couple of days thing, it’s a month thing, now you’re looking saying ‘Holy cow, I’m going to be starting a bunch of games in a row here,'” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “So mentally there’s a hurdle there to get over. He was probably sitting there saying I’ve got to make every single save. When you start putting a little too much pressure on yourself… he just needed to relax a little bit and understand we’ll get some goals, just make the saves when you can and if you can help bail us out sometimes, do it. That’s what he’s done of late and been really confident in net.”

Also, during most of his run, Domingue wore a neat mask during Hockey Fights Cancer month which featured drawings done by kids being treated at Children’s Cancer Center of Tampa Bay.

As Vasilevskiy returns, the Lightning now know they have a proven No. 2 behind him who can instill confidence in teammates when he gets the call. And with Vasilevskiy having started 64 games last season, Domingue’s presence will allow Cooper to rest his starter when needed — an issue that came up last season.

“It’s a team sport and the reason you’ve got guys in line waiting to play is in case injuries happen,” said Cooper. “You don’t want anybody get to hurt, ever, but you can lose your starting goaltender for a month or so. That’s 15 or 16 games. Somebody’s got to fill that void and step in and Louis has done an unreal job.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Hornqvist makes history; Flames score nine

Associated Press
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Three stars

1. Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins

He scored the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fastest-ever hat trick on hat night.

Not bad from the 230th and final player drafted in the 2005 NHL Draft.

Hornqvist’s goals came pretty much the same way they always do: by working hard. He cleaned up some trash in front of the net, had a knuckle puck fool a goalie and then saw his shot on the hat trick goal re-direct off a defenseman. Hornqvist added an assist for the four-point night.

2. Sean Monahan & Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Look, I have to cheat here. Tuesday was a wild night and the wildest game came in Calgary (highlights here), where the Flames won 9-6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That’s right, 15 goals, and Monahan and Gaudreau each had four-point nights to help propel the Flames past their Blue Jackets.

Both Monahan and Gaudreau scored twice and added two helpers in the game. Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and two assists. Mark Giordano had three helpers.

3. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers 

Luongo has dealt with a couple injuries now this year and still comes back with a vengeance each time.

Lu returned from a five-game hiatus due to a knee injury and stopped 33 shots for his 77th career shutout (and first of the season) in a 5-0 win against the Boston Bruins.

Luongo returned after a month off in early November and steered the Panthers to a win against the Winnipeg Jets in Finland. He plays well in these games coming off a layoff, but the Panthers need him to stay healthy from here on out. Tuesday was a good example as to why.

Other notable performances:

  • Cam Atkinson extended his point streak to 11 games with a hat trick of his own. On any normal night in the NHL, Atkinson would be among the three stars. Tuesday wasn’t a normal night.
  • Ditto for Frans Nielsen, who scored a natural hatty. [Video]
  • Auston Matthews scored an incredible goal in overtime to help the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Buffalo Sabres by a 4-3 margin. Matthews scored earlier in the game and added an assist. He’s got 15 goals in 14 games this season and five goals and two assists in three games since returning from injury.
  • Jack Eichel scored twice, bringing the Sabres from 2-1 down to a 3-2 lead in the third period.
  • Eddie Pasquale, 28, got his first win in his NHL debut. It wasn’t pretty, but he turned aside 19 of 24 shots in through 65 minutes and two of three Red Wings shooters in the shootout. [Highlights]
  • Max Domi had two goals and an assist as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Ottawa Senators 5-2.
  • Sticking in Tampa, Mathieu Joseph had two goals and an assist in the Lightning win.
  • Mike Hoffman had two goals for the Panthers. Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists.
  • Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist. [Highlights]
  • Adin Hill keeps winning. He’s now 4-0-0 in five games played this season after making 25 saves.
  • Nate Schmidt scored twice and added an assist in a 5-3 win over his former team in the Washington Capitals.

Highlights of the night

Hornqvist makes history:

Auston Matthews doing the impossible:

Matheson goes coast-to-coast:

One-handed:

Factoids

Scores

Panthers 5, Bruins 0

Jets 3, Islanders 1

Penguins 6, Avalanche 3

Flames 9, Blue Jackets 6

Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3 (OT)

Canadiens 5, Senators 2

Lightning 6, Red Wings 5 (SO)

Wild 3, Canucks 2

Golden Knights 5, Capitals 3

Coyotes 2, Kings 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck