EditorsNote: Edit 1: added quotes
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New Jersey Devils with a 3-1 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.
The Lightning won the series four games to one and await the winner of Boston-Toronto. Boston leads its series three games to one and could clinch Saturday night.
Vasilevskiy did not see much action until the third period as the Lightning controlled possession throughout the second due to four straight power plays. He stepped up with saves on Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Pavel Zacha during New Jersey’s first power play midway through the third.
The stop on Palmieri occurred when Vasilevskiy sprawled through the crease and stretched his right foot to secure the puck before it crossed the goal line with 10:31 remaining.
Nearly two minutes later Vasilevskiy made a point-blank stop on a partial breakaway chance by Jesper Bratt.
Mikail Sergachev scored his first career goal in the first period, Nikita Kucherov netted the game-winner with about 8 1/2 minutes remaining and Ryan Callahan added an empty-net goal.
“We wanted to make sure we took care of it here,” Callahan said. “I loved the way we did it defensively, we were sound.”
Cory Schneider kept the Devils in the game with a 35-save performance. He made 11 stops during four straight Tampa Bay power plays in the second when the Devils were outshot 16-4.
Palmieri scored for the Devils, who stayed in the game by keeping the Lightning scoreless in five power plays. Taylor Hall registered his fifth assist but otherwise endured a frustrating game, highlighted by breaking his stick on a one-timer attempt with about 14 minutes left.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Palmieri said. “Doesn’t matter if you lose in Game 5, 6 or 7. If you lose your last game of the season it sucks.”
Schneider was pulled with 3:32 left and Palmieri snuck a low wrister from the point by Vasilevskiy’s stick.
Schneider went to the bench again with about two minutes remaining but returned seconds later and made an acrobatic save on a breakaway chance by Tyler Johnson.
For the fourth time in the series, the Lightning struck first, using an aggressive forecheck to get Sergachev’s first career goal 8:07 into the game.
Yanni Gourde pressured Travis Zajac into a turnover behind the net near the right corner and quickly moved the puck to Anthony Cirelli.
Cirelli quickly dished it off to Sergachev, whose shot from above the left circle sailed through traffic and by Schneider.
The Lightning finally scored the second goal with 7:33 left when Kucherov’s long shot near center ice trickled through Schneider’s legs. Kucherov set a team record with 10 points in the series, surpassing the mark of nine points by Tyler Johnson in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers.
—Field Level Media