Vasilevskiy gets shutout as Lightning snap two-game skid
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The NHL’s highest-scoring team leaned on its defense to snap a two-game losing streak.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves in his second shutout of the season, and the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Dan Girardi in a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
“When you’re on a little bit of a slide, we’re just trying to get back to basics,” Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. “Keep it simple, get pucks to the net and get some of those dirty goals.”
Tampa Bay is off to the best start in franchise history (17-5-2) but had lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with 16 wins and has six career shutouts in 101 starts.
“He’s one of, if not the best goalie in the world right now,” Johnson said.
Robin Lehner stopped 24 shots for the Sabres, who were held scoreless for the second straight game and have lost nine of 10.
“It wasn’t a bad performance but not good enough,” Lehner said. “Good enough is not enough right now. We need to claw back. We need to do something special.”
The Sabres pulled Lehner to gain an extra attacker for the final 4:09 of the game.
“We have to have some attitude when we start the game,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “This is our home rink. We’ve got to get out and establish a forecheck, show more emotion on the ice.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading scorer, went without a goal for the fifth straight game and has added just one point to his league-high tally during that stretch. Linemate Nikita Kucherov had an assist for his second point in five games and is now one point behind Stamkos for the NHL lead with 35.
“They’ve produced at such a high rate, there are going to be games or little spurts where you’re not going to get a point,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “The big thing is we won the game and they didn’t score.”
Sergachev scored his sixth goal of the season on a power play to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead late in the first period. The rookie’s wrist shot from the right circle deflected in off the stick of Buffalo’s Johan Larsson.
Tampa Bay has scored a power-play goal in nine of its last 10 games and leads the NHL in conversion rate.
Girardi, the longtime New York Rangers defenseman, got his first goal with the Lightning midway through the second period. His slap shot from the top of the right circle bounced in off Buffalo’s Marco Scandella.
“That’s in our game plan. You have to get your ‘D’ involved,” Cooper said. “But I liked that Stammer was at the net and that’s what you have to do. You have to take away the goalie’s eyes.”
NOTES: Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen went to the locker room late in the second period after being shoved into the net by Tampa Bay’s Braydon Coburn but was able to return. “He got a little stinger there but was fine coming back,” Housley said. Ristolainen was playing in his third game after missing nine with an upper-body injury. ... Lightning F J.T. Brown missed his third straight game with an undisclosed injury. ... The Sabres have not gotten a goal from a defenseman all season. ... The Lightning have beaten the Sabres in five straight meetings and are 8-0-1 in their last nine trips to Buffalo. ... The Sabres went scoreless on three power-play chances and are now 0 for 18 over the past seven games.
Lightning: At Boston on Wednesday night.
Sabres: Host Pittsburgh on Friday night.
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