When it comes to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Florida Panthers are being careful not to poke the bear going into Game 4 this afternoon at Amalie Arena.
Vasilevskiy may be one of the best goalies in the NHL, but at least this season, he hasn’t looked like it against the Panthers.
“We know he’s a good goalie, but we can beat him and we’re good enough to beat him,” Jonathan Huberdeau said after Florida’s 6-5 overtime win in Game 3 on Thursday night.
“In a lot of games, we scored a lot of goals against him. So I think again, six goals, I think we know we’ve just got to make it difficult for him and the puck will go in. That’s what we did.”
During his 42 regular season starts, Vasilevskiy gave up four goals eight times; Florida scored four on him three times and the five goals he surrendered in Game No. 55 was the most he gave up all year.
As we wrote about before the series started, not only did Florida come into the postseason with 14 goals in its previous three games against the Tampa Bay netminder, but the Panthers were the only team Vasilevskiy had a losing record (2-4) against this season.
In the regular season, Vasilevskiy went 29-6-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage against the rest of the Central Division.
Against the Panthers, Vasilevskiy went 2-4-0 with a 3.36 GAA and .898 save percentage.
In the final two games of the season, the Panthers outscored Tampa Bay 9-1 as Vasilevskiy gave up nine goals on 65 shots (.862 save percentage).
“Obviously he is a good goalie as everyone knows,” Sergei Bobrovsky said on the eve of the playoff opener. “It’s a good matchup, a fun challenge for me. It’s one of those things where you have to focus on one shot at a time. I have to anticipate that he’s going to make big saves and I have to make big saves. It should be fun hockey.”
In three playoff games, the Panthers have scored 12 goals.
The six the Panthers put up Thursday are the most allowed by Vasilevskiy since Arizona got a touchdown on Feb. 22, 2020.
Vasilevskiy did hold Florida to one goal in Game 2 but, did he look spectacular in that game?
It was more the Lightning defense suffocating the life out of the Panthers than anything else.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning need to help its goalie out a little as it did in Game 2.
“To give up the chances we gave up (Thursday), you can have Vasilevskiy on steroids and it doesn’t matter,” Cooper said. “There’s only so much he can do. I think he’s been exceptional for us. He gives us a chance to win every night.
“We could play a tighter game in front of him. And we’ve done that for periods in this series. At times we haven’t. Vasilevskiy is the least of our worries.”