In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Lightning goalie Ben Bishop went in and out of the game in the third period, possibly because he had the runs. In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Bishop was obviously hobbled yet still good enough to stone the Blackhawks. Finally, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Bishop’s 20-year-old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy led the team out onto the ice instead. Whatever is ailing Bishop—and both he and the Lightning are keeping mum—finally knocked him out.
In his first postseason start—in fact, he was the youngest goalie to start a Finals game since Patrick Roy in 1986—Vasilevskiy probably expected to be tested by the Blackhawks early. Instead, he didn’t see his first shot until over eight minutes into the game, and was only forced to make two saves in the entire period. Hey, maybe this goalie thing isn’t too difficult!
It got a lot more difficult. In a little over a minute both Marcus Kruger and Patrick Sharp* pinged shots off of Vasilevskiy’s post, before Jonathan Toews put a bouncing puck off of Vasilevskiy’s skate into the net for the first goal of the game:
The Blackhawks led for all of five minutes, before a brilliant bit of skill from Valtteri Filppula leveled the game. Carrying the puck behind the net, he faked Corey Crawford—and three Blackhawks defenders—into thinking he was going for the wraparound, but instead flipped a pass to Alex Killorn for an easy score.
The teams went into the third period tied 1-1, and the game-winning goal came six minutes in. It’s probably one Vasilevskiy wishes he could have back. Brandon Saad made a nice move off the faceoff to get in front of the net, and somehow his weak backhand dribbled through Vasilevskiy’s five hole into the net:
Vasilevskiy was only called into action two more times the rest of the way, as the Lightning unleashed a barrage on Corey Crawford’s goal. The most furious action came in the final two minutes, with Vasilevskiy pulled for an extra attacker. Frankly, I still don’t really understand how the Lightning didn’t score here:
Playing in front of a rookie netminder, the Lightning defense did their job. Vasilevskiy only faced 19 shots on the night, but let in one too many. The star of the game was the other goalie, Corey Crawford, who withstood a couple of onslaughts that by all rights should have evened the game. But they didn’t, and that’s all that matters. The Blackhawks return to Tampa Bay having evened the series at two games a piece.