Saturday was an action-packed day across the National Hockey League; from the early afternoon matinees to the late-night games on the west coast. We saw a record-setting win in Tampa Bay, a heck of a debut in New Jersey, a win in relief in Winnipeg and a goaltending duel in Dallas.
Vasilevskiy Sets the Bar in Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Lightning appeared to still be shell shocked after last spring’s quick and surprising exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. With pretty much the same team that earned 128 points last season, many expected them to beat the team to beat in 2019-20.
A big reason for the team’s slow start has been the play of Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. He entered Saturday night’s game versus the Anaheim Ducks with a 2.95 goals-against average (GAA) and .904 save percentage (SV%); both far below the numbers we are used to seeing from him.
Vasilevskiy was on his game by making 36 saves to help lead the Lightning over the Ducks, 6-2, at the Amalie Arena. The victory was the 132nd of his career, which is the most by any goaltender in Tampa Bay franchise history. The record was previously held by Ben Bishop.
Tampa Bay is starting to put things together with back-to-back wins and victories in five of their last seven games.
Dominque’s First Start is a Huge Success
The New Jersey Devils are another disappointing team through the first seven weeks of the 2019-20 season. Last week, they waived former All-Star goaltender Cory Schneider and reassigned him to the American Hockey League. They recalled Louis Domingue, who was acquired from the Lightning for a seventh-round draft pick on Nov. 1, to take Schneider’s roster spot.
Dominque made his first start for the Devils on Saturday and made 19 saves in a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
“Everything was working well from start to finish,” Domingue said of his performance. “I was seeing the puck well. Usually, when you’re seeing the puck it’s because your team is doing a great job in front of you. I thought we kept it to the outside, limited it to one rebound. It was a great team effort from everyone.”
An Odd Win in Winnipeg
Connor Hellebuyck was supposed to have the night off when the Winnipeg Jets hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. However, with just over 11 minutes left in the third period and the game tied at 3-3, starter Laurent Brossoit had to leave the ice for undisclosed reasons.
Hellebuyck did not get a whole lot of action as he faced just five shots on goal after entering the game. He stopped all of them and was credited with a victory when Andrew Copp scored with just 1:54 left in regulation.
“[Brossoit] really earned this victory tonight,” Hellebuyck said after earning the win in relief. “Unfortunately, I take the stat. I hope he knows, and I’ve told him that everyone in here knows that he earned that victory tonight.”
The Jets have now won eight of the last 11 games and have recovered from a slow start to the season.
Big Saves in Big D
The Dallas Stars have been the hottest team in the NHL of late. They were able to extend their point streak to 12 straight games with a 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night. In a game featuring offensive superstars like Jamie Benn, Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin, it was the goaltenders. Anton Khudobin and Robin Lehner, who stole the show.
The two netminders combined for 78 saves in regulation and overtime. Khudobin made a handful of highlight-reel saves on the night, but none were better than this sequence early in the third period. First, he moved post-to-post to rob Dominik Kubalik and then he made three more saves while doing the splits.
Khudobin stopped both Kane and Jonathan Toews in the shootout while Joe Pavelski and Seguin scored for the Stars to earn the extra point.