Wednesday night’s National Hockey League action provided us with plenty of newsworthy storylines. The league’s hottest team and goaltender kept on earning points out in Hollywood. Plus, a couple of fantastic saves highlighted a huge night in the Pacific Division.
Lightning, Vasilevskiy Keep on Rolling
We have written a lot about 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy lately and rightfully so. It seems that Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning can do no wrong these last few weeks.
They found a way to win again on Wednesday night by beating the Los Angeles Kings, 4-2, after allowing the first two goals of the game. They are 13-2-1 in their last 16 games and are just five points behind the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division standings.
Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to extend his personal point streak to 14 games. Since Dec. 17, he has gone 12-0-2. He is two games shy of tying the franchise record for the longest point streak by a goaltender, which was set by Nikolai Khabibulin in 2003.
While he is close to the overall franchise record for points in consecutive games, Vasilevskiy set another one in Los Angeles. With his win, he is 8-0-2 in his last 10 road games dating back to Nov. 29. No Lightning goaltender has ever had a longer point streak away from home. During the streak, he has posted a 1.88 goals-against average (GAA), .939 save percentage (SV%) to go with one shutout.
Rittich Signs Off with a “Bat Flip”
Wednesday night was a big night in the Pacific Division, with the biggest game taking place in Alberta. The Edmonton Oilers hosted the Calgary Flames in a game that many thought would provide some fireworks and they were not disappointed.
Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk settled their score with a first-period fight. Andrew Mangiapane scored two goals for the Flames, but the Oilers erased three separate one-goal deficits to force overtime and a shootout.
Goaltender David Rittich, who made 31 saves in the win, came up with a huge stop on All-Star Leon Draisaitl in the last round of the shootout. As Draisaitl approached, Rittich made an aggressive move out of his crease to poke check the puck away. He then celebrated with a stick flip before being joined by his teammates.
“It was a hard game. They had a really good first period, especially the second half,” Rittich said after the game. “They had a lot of shots, a lot of good looks. We took over in the second — two tough goals that they scored. Thank God for [Mangiapane]. He got a couple goals, and we went into the third up 3-2. The third one, I should say, I kind of gave them one point here.”
Markstrom Goes Old School
Meanwhile, in San Jose, the Vancouver Canucks maintained their two-point lead over the Flames in the standings with a 5-2 victory at the Sharks. The Canucks used four third-period goals and 38 saves by Jacob Markstrom to win their fourth straight game. Since Dec. 19, the first-place Canucks have gone 13-3-0 and sit atop the Pacific Division.
Markstrom’s best save came when his team was trailing 2-1 in the second period. Sharks forward Kevin Labanc thought he had a sure goal on his stick, but the All-Star goalie had other ideas. Markstrom went down to try and make an old-school, double pad stack save and then, somehow, got his left leg up to keep the puck out of his net.
“Good teams find a way,” Markstrom said from the winning locker room. “We want to play a good 60 minutes. It’s a huge win. We play for each other, we play for the guy next to you, and we’ve got to keep doing that.”