Linesmen Pierre Racicot, left, escorts Tampa Bay Lightning's Brayden Point (21) to the penalty box after Point and Dallas Stars' Andrew Cogliano fought in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

DALLAS — Andrei Vasilevskiy already has a Stanley Cup title, and now is only a couple minutes shy of the longest shutout streak ever by a Tampa Bay goalie.

Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots for his third consecutive shutout, extending his scoreless streak to 200 minutes, and the defending champion Lightning beat the struggling Dallas Stars 2-0 on Tuesday night — the second shutout in four days by Tampa Bay over the team it beat in the finals last September.

“You can see that confidence. … The thing that has grown the most is the way he can calm himself during a game. It takes reps to do that, and he came into some huge situations at such a young time in his career,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “To watch his growth, it’s just awesome to see.”

The three straight shutouts are a career best for Vasilevskiy, the 26-year-old goalie who has played all seven of his NHL seasons for Tampa Bay.

Vasilevskiy surpassed his previous record scoreless streak of 184 minutes, 49 seconds, set three seasons ago, and is the 70th NHL goalie to surpass 200 minutes — his 200:45 is just shy of John Grahame’s team-record 202:46 set over a four-game span in January 2006. Vasilevskiy’s streak of 10-plus scoreless periods, during which he has stopped 92 shots in a row, is the longest in the NHL this season.

“There’s a ton of confidence in front of him,” Tampa Bay centre Blake Coleman said. “There’s certainly been some games, even during this win streak, when we haven’t been our best, but he keeps us in games and gives us a chance to win some low-scoring and some close-scoring games just because he’s keeping the puck out of the net.”

Vasilevskiy also held the Stars without a goal in a 5-0 win Saturday at home in the first meeting this season between teams now in the same division during this pandemic-altered season.

Tampa Bay (15-4-1) has the NHL’s longest active winning streak at five games and leads the Central Division with 31 points, one more than the Florida Panthers, who have played one more game than the Lightning.

Dallas has won only once in its last 10 games. The Stars played at home for the first time since Feb. 13, before having four consecutive home games postponed because of extreme winter weather that led to extended power problems in North Texas and made the American Airlines Center unavailable.

.Just as they did against Dallas on Saturday, the Lightning went ahead to stay on a power-play goal in the first period by Ondrej Palat. Their other goal was an empty-netter by Yanni Gourde with five seconds left.

Anton Khudobin stopped 17 shots for Dallas.

“I think we played better than we played in Tampa, and that was important,” Khudobin said.

Palat scored 7 1/2 minutes into the game, and only 10 seconds after the Lightning went on the power play.

After Palat’s initial shot from the right side was blocked by Esa Lindell, the puck ricocheted across to captain Steven Stamkos on the other side. He passed to Victor Hedman in the middle and the puck went back to Palat for a one-timer between Khudobin and the right post.

Andrew Cogliano had a point-blank shot for Dallas late in the first period, but it was pushed aside by Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goalie had also secured the puck after Joe Pavelski’s shot was followed by captain Jamie Benn’s two shots in quick succession.

“We had some great looks tonight — a couple of times miss the net, a couple of times making a good save,” Pavelski said.

Benn had a shot midway through the second period that hit under Vasilevskiy’s right arm, then ricocheted off the post. The Stars had 20 shots against him Saturday.

“He’s been outstanding. Even when we don’t have the good periods, he’s there helping us with the big saves,” Palat said. “Today, he had some huge ones. He’s playing unreal. It’s fun to play in front of him.”

ICE CHIPS

The NHL’s previous long scoreless streak this season was 142:10 by Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov in January. … Tampa Bay has outscored its opponents 17-3 during the winning streak. … Hedman’s assist gave him 20 points (four goals, 16 assists), the second-most for an NHL defenceman.

POWER PALAT

Palat’s tally in the first period was his sixth power-play goal of the season, already a career high after only 20 games. His previous career best had been five over 56 games in 2016-17. It was also his NHL-best sixth time this season scoring the first goal of a game.

STARS SCHEDULE

The Stars played the first of 40 games over 70 days to finish out the reduced 56-game regular season. They started a seven-week stretch when they have games scheduled every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday through mid-April. They will later finish the regular season with seven consecutive road games over 12 days.

WHAT’S NEXT

Tampa Bay plays three games in four days at the Chicago Blackhawks, starting Thursday.

Dallas stays at home for five more games, hosting Columbus on Thursday and Saturday.

___

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press

NHL

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