The Buzzer: Blackhawks stay hot; Long-lasting Luongo

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Three Stars

1. Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko generated a hat trick to help the Blues sweep their home-and-home set against the Predators, with his third goal being a sweet overtime-winner for St. Louis. Things were already looking great for the Blues coming into this weekend, and now they’re trending toward being the team top West contenders do not want to face in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“The Tank” extended his point streak to eight games. During that span, he’s generated seven goals and five assists for 12 points. Tarasenko’s at 22 goals in 2018-19, giving him six straight seasons with 20+ goals.

It’s a good sign that Tarasenko is firing the puck a lot, too. He generated eight shots on goal on Sunday, giving him 23 SOG over the last five games.

2. Alexandar Georgiev

What a performance by the rookie New York Rangers goalie.

Georgiev stopped 55 of 56 shots on goal by the Toronto Maple Leafs, including all 23 SOG he faced during Toronto’s four unsuccessful power-play opportunities. It was quite a way for Georgiev to celebrate his 23rd birthday.

He finished just four saves short of Mike Richter’s single-game Rangers record of 59.

3. Dominik Kahun

Six different players reached three points on Sunday. Tarasenko stands out from the pack being that he’s the only won whose three points comprised a hat trick.

Kahun joins Tarasenko as the only one of the six to score a GWG on Sunday. He generated two goals and one assist as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings to win their seventh consecutive game.

The 23-year-old’s enjoyed a reasonably solid rookie season (27 points in 56 games), but he’s been really racking up points lately. Over the last four games, Kahun’s produced three goals and four assists for seven points. Kahun’s Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat also had a three-point game on Sunday, with his coming via three assists.

Sharp on CHI

Speaking of Chicago’s winning streak, here’s Patrick Sharp on his former team’s turnaround, and their chances of making the playoffs.

Highlights of the Night

As nice a goal as Ryan Callahan scored, the biggest highlight is his celebration.

The Avalanche have really been struggling, but Nathan MacKinnon is still spectacular. Video evidence:

Factoids

Scores

STL 5 – NSH 4 (OT)
CHI 5 – DET 2
BOS 2 – COL 1 (OT)
WPG 3 – BUF 1
NJD 3 – CAR 2
NYI 2 – MIN 1
TBL 5 – FLA 2
NYR 4 – TOR 1

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.

Lightning ride Vasilevskiy’s spectacular return to beat Maple Leafs

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The Tampa Bay Lightning remained one of the best teams in the NHL even with Andrei Vasilevskiy missing 15 games, taking a seven-game winning streak into Thursday’s best-versus-best clash against Toronto. All due respect to Louis Domingue, but the Lightning wouldn’t have won their eighth game in a row without a vastly impressive Vasilevskiy.

Honestly, you could make a sane argument that no other goalie in the world could author such a masterpiece, but that’s a debate for your local, hockey-friendly bar.

Speaking of debates, NHL fans were treated to what could potentially be an epic, too-good-for-the-second-round series, with the Lightning beating the Maple Leafs 4-1.

Prediction: a lot of people will look at that 4-1 score and believe that the Lightning absolutely dominated the Maple Leafs. That wasn’t the case, at all, as Vasilevskiy showed the opposite of rustiness in stopping 48 shots.

Vasilevskiy set a new Lightning franchise record for saves in a home game, and tied the overall mark. To review: Vasilevskiy set a new career-high for saves against one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL, and he did it in his first game back since Nov. 10. Tremendous.

Many of those saves were jaw-droppers, rather than run-of-the-mill, with this making a late push for Save of the Year contention:

You can’t really put the Leafs’ lone goal on Vasilevskiy, either, as Kasperi Kapanen stole an ill-advised pass, getting a ton of time and room to score:

After an evenly-matched, exciting 1-1 first period, the Lightning pulled away by scoring three times during the middle frame. All of those tallies were painful for Toronto. Tampa Bay made it 2-1 when Nikita Kucherov scored a barely-goal that Frederik Andersen seemingly gloved, and then the game really got away from the Maple Leafs when the Lightning scored two more times in the final minute of the second period.

Overall, the Maple Leafs generated a gaudy 49-21 shots on goal advantage. While you could accuse the Bolts of sitting on their lead late (they were outshot 16-2 in the third, and endured at least a 13-minute SOG drought), Toronto generated an edge during each period. It didn’t matter, because Vasilevskiy was a human highlight reel in net.

It’s foolish to read too much into a single night during an 82-game season, but perhaps a night like this might give the Maple Leafs that extra push to add that missing piece or two? If nothing else, the Lightning only strengthened their stranglehold on the Atlantic Division crown, not to mention the top spot in the East, and the Presidents’ Trophy.

Sure, the score was lopsided, yet this game made a best-of-seven series that much more tantalizing to imagine, even if getting there would be easier said than done. You know, kind of like getting pucks past Vasi.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning host Blackhawks on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Improvement has been there, but there’s plenty of work to do for new Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. Since the 0-6-2 slump that led to Joel Quenneville’s firing, Chicago is 2-3-2 under the new bench boss, which has featured the team’s top line providing a big offensive push.

In Colliton’s seven games behind the bench, Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have scored six goals and recorded 16 points. The rest of the Blackhakws have totaled six goals and 20 points.

“If we play them together, they’ve got to produce. But sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces,” Colliton explained about putting the three together. “By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them. But hopefully they play so well, it doesn’t matter who has the puck — they’re making plays, they break through anyway, no matter who they’re playing against. That’s what we ask of them, and so far they’re coming through for us.”

The Lightning beat the Florida Panthers Wednesday to move to within two points of the top spot in the NHL. The dynamic offense scored seven goals for the third time this season, keeping them atop the league with a 3.73 goals per game average.

Goaltender Louis Domingue has made five starts since Andrei Vasilevskiy broke his foot last week. Tampa has won three of those games with the netminder posting a .939 even strength save percentage.

“He’s winning hockey games for us,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “[H]e’s given us a chance to win games and he’s played well.”

[WATCH LIVE – 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Friday, November 23rd, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Nick SchmaltzArtem AnisimovAlex DeBrincat
Alexandre FortinDavid KampfDominik Kahun
Chris KunitzLuke JohnsonMarcus Kruger

Duncan KeithGustav Forsling
Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook
Brandon ManningJan Rutta

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

LIGHTNING
Yanni GourdeSteven StamkosJ.T. Miller
Tyler JohnsonBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony CirelliMathieu Joseph
Adam ErneCedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Louis Domingue

Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Brian Engblom (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Blackhawks-Lightning from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks visit Tampa to take on first-place Bolts

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Jeremy Colliton era has gotten off to a mediocre start in Chicago, as they’re 2-3-2 in his first seven contests as an head coach. The ‘Hawks are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. They’ll finish their weekend off in Florida on Saturday night.

“We played hard,” Colliton said after the loss. “I thought the effort was there, and we looked like we were going to climb back into it multiple times during the game. Just some self-inflicted wounds there that made it difficult against a Cup winner… we’re good enough. We have a good enough team. We’ve just got to tighten up a little bit. These are things we can control.”

Colliton has been able to rely on his top offensive performers, but the supporting cast has struggled to produce. Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for six goals and 16 points, while the rest of the team has six goals and 20 points during the same stretch.

Toews, in particular, has had a nice rebound season. The 30-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists through 22 games this season. That puts him on pace to score 37 goals in 2018-19. He’s scored 20 and 21 goals over the last two seasons.

“I’ve been through some droughts early in the year the last few years, and it’s not that it hurts your confidence so much as you go into games a little too calculated, instead of just going out there and playing… that’s why this is the top level of the game,” said Toews. “It’s never supposed to be easy, and there’s always something to learn and some way you can grow. For me, it’s learning from trends and patterns that emerge in your game and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to correct this or improve that.’ You’re always looking for ways to get better, and to get that good feeling in your game.”

The Lightning are currently in top spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-6-1. Despite not having Andrei Vasilevskiy in their lineup, the Bolts have won three of their last four games with Louis Domingue between the pipes.

“He’s winning hockey games for us,” head coach Jon Cooper said of Domingue. “You’ve got to feel for him at the end there (on Wednesday), we give up that power-play goal because a two looks a lot better than a three. But he’s given us a chance to win games and he’s played well.”

Tampa is coming off a 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. In that game, Steven Stamkos managed to pick up a goal and three assists. It was an encouraging performance from a player that had just two assists in five games. The 28-year-old has seven goals and 14 assists in 22 games this season.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.