Lightning take over top spot by beating Blues

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[December 13, 2017]  ST. LOUIS -- Andrei Vasilevskiy had revenge on his mind when he stepped on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning's game Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

Vasilevskiy had started only one previous game in St. Louis in his career and it was a night he wished he could forget.

On Dec. 1, 2016, Vasilevskiy allowed four goals in just over 21 minutes and was pulled from the game as the Blues went on to a 5-4 victory.

"It wasn't my best game," he recalled.

Vasilevskiy had a much more enjoyable evening on Tuesday as he recorded his third shutout of the season and earned his 20th victory in a 3-0 win that extended the Lightning's winning streak to five games.

He became the sixth goalie in NHL history to reach the 20-win mark in his first 25 appearances of the season.

The win also put the Lightning back in sole possession of the top spot in the NHL standings, breaking a tie with the Blues, who lost for the first time in five games.

Vasilevskiy made 32 saves and also benefitted from several missed chances by the Blues, who failed to convert two 2-on-1 breaks in the second period and saw Vladimir Sobotka miss a wide open net midway through the third period.

"It was a tough challenge for us but the guys played pretty well in front of me," Vasilevskiy said. "Overall, I thought we played well. I played my game, too."

The Lightning gave Vasilevskiy the only goal he would need with 45 seconds left in the first period when Brayden Point got his own rebound of a shot that hit the post and took advantage of the second chance, beating Jake Allen for his 13th goal of the season. He has scored in each of the last four games, the longest streak of his career.

That lead stood up until Nikita Kucherov added his 21st goal of the season at 13:37 of the third period, which came on the shift after Sobotka's missed opportunity to tie the game.

"I missed the empty net," Sobotka said. "It is what it is. It happens. I don't know what to tell you; I missed the net and it could have been 1-1 and they score on the next shift."

Tampa coach Jon Cooper thought Vasilevskiy saved the game for the Lightning in the second period.

"We let them have a chance to come right back in the game and our goalie had to bail us out," Cooper said. "We made our goalie have to stress out getting a shutout."

Both Blues coach Mike Yeo and Allen also gave credit for the win to Vasilevskiy.

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 Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) and center Yanni Gourde (37) defend the net against St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn (10) during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

"We generated opportunities but obviously there's some nights where the goalie deserves some credit," Yeo said. "That guy's pretty good. That's a good team we played tonight. I thought we gave ourselves a good chance. We didn't finish, we didn't capitalize, but if we keep playing like that then we will get good results.

"This is not a night where you come in here and beat people up. It was a good effort but it wasn't enough. We'll find a way to get better."

Added Allen, "I didn't think we made it hard enough on Vasilevskiy. He's been the best goalie in the league this year and it's not even really close. We put pucks on net but it was pretty easy for him."

Tyler Johnson scored the final Lightning goal into an empty net with 22 seconds to play.

The Blues were shut out for the third time this season, all of which have been at home.

The Lightning also broke a five-game losing streak in St. Louis with their first win on the road against the Blues since Dec. 18, 2009.

"It was finally nice to win here," Cooper said. "I coached junior here (in St. Louis). We had a lot of success but just haven't had it in the NHL coming to this building so definitely nice, especially a team that has the most points in the Western Conference. It's a big confidence builder for us."

NOTES: The Blues placed D Alex Pietrangelo on injured reserve because of a lower-body injury, meaning he will be out at least a week. ... D Jordan Schmaltz was recalled from San Antonio of the AHL and was in the lineup as D Jay Bouwmeester also was scratched because of what was described as a "nagging" injury. ... RW Sammy Blais also was sent back to San Antonio. ... Lightning D Braydon Coburn (undisclosed injury) participated in the morning skate, and the team hopes he can play later on their road trip, which continues Thursday night at Arizona. ... The Blues' homestand continues Thursday night against Anaheim.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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