TRAIKOS: Andrei Vasileskiy’s legend grew after allowing seven goals – and staying in the game

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DENVER — In his own weird way, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s legend kind of grew in the 7-0 loss to Colorado in Game 2.

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We’ll talk about this one for a while. Probably more than we’ll talk about Darcy Kuemper’s shutout.

After all, there are plenty of goaltenders who have recorded shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals. But how many goalkeepers have allowed seven goals in a game? More importantly, how many have allowed seven goals – and not been retired.

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Much of that was down to Vasilevskiy, who, in a backhand from Patrick Roy, stubbornly stayed in the net even when it was clear there was no way Tampa Bay would come back.

« He’s our guy, » Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said of Vasilevskiy. “He’ll be here in a few nights. We win together, we lose together. Even if I had (pulled him out), I don’t think he would have (pulled him out). That’s what he is as a competitor. That’s why he’s the best.

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With Game 3 on Monday, most coaches would have opted to retire their guy and prepare him – both mentally and physically – for the next one. And most of the guards probably would have liked to be removed, rather than continue to suffer further embarrassment.

Vasilevskiy, however, is not like other goalkeepers.

The last time he was retired in the playoffs was May 11, 2018, when he allowed four goals on 25 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the League. Eastern Conference Finals. In 77 games since, he’s been the only goaltender to appear in the net for Tampa Bay.

« Look, we let it dry tonight, » Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. « He’s been our backbone for years and years and years, and we owe it to him to have a better game next game. I mean, it could have been more. He made some amazing saves.

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With eight goals and 13 points in 16 games, Colorado’s Valeri Nichushkin seems to have become this year’s version of the unlikely playoff hero. But there was a time when big things were expected of the underachieving striker.

Dallas’ Jamie Benn once compared Nichushkin to Evgeni Malkin, saying « the kid is 6-5 or whatever and skates like the wind. I don’t think teams realize how fast he’s going until he’s skating next to them.

All-star general manager Jim Nill, who was surprised Nichushkin was still available when Dallas picked 10th overall in the 2013 draft, said, « If he was playing in Moose Jaw, Sask., he’d probably be among the top three picks.

These comments are almost 10 years old.

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That’s how long it took Nichushkin to realize his potential. Now that he has, the late player is making up for lost time with three goals and an assist in the Stanley Cup Finals.

« He’s built for this time of year, » Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of a player who’s been described as a « train, » a « truck » and a « horse. » by several of his teammates.

« I’ve said it before, » Bednar said. “Big, long, strong, fast, tenacious, hungry, relentless on the puck, completing the chances he gets. He can play with the best players. You can move it up and down the range. He is in numerical advantage, in numerical inferiority. I don’t know what else to say about the guy.

How about it was time?


Colorado’s Andre Burakovsky, who was rated for a hand injury sustained in the second period of Game 2, was not on the team’s flight to Tampa Bay on Sunday. But good news, Nazem Kadri made the trip.

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« I’m not sure of Naz’s timeline yet. I still have it on a daily basis,” Bednar said. “Obviously he is progressing. He skates every day. He put his stick there. He’s starting to throw pucks now and getting better at handling the puck, catching it and releasing it, like passing and shooting.

« So hopefully we’ll see it at some point. I don’t know if it’s Game 3 or Game 4. »

Kadri last played in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, when he injured his thumb on an illegal hit by Evander Kane. He has six goals and 14 points in 13 playoff games.

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« We’re losing guys here to injuries, » Bednar said. “It’s part of the game. Other guys have to step in.

Loose snaps

Despite a 2-0 lead, Colorado is aware that the series is far from over. « We know they’re going to be a much better team at home than when they’re on the road, » said defender Erik Johnson, « so we expect to get their best games here in 3 and 4, so from our point of view nothing changes. » … With 22 points – including five assists in the Stanley Cup Finals – point guard Mikko Rantanen may have entered the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation. After all, alone Cale Makar (24 points) produced more for Colorado… Tampa Bay had faced three offensive-minded teams heading into the Finals, but it’s safe to say none of them skated or pushed pace like Colorado did. « Everyone poses a different challenge, » Cooper said, « and these guys pose a challenge that we haven’t seen yet. And, you know what, we just have to overcome it.

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