Miracles from tampa's Russian trio
The clash between the Lightning and the Islanders was largely viewed through the prism of a duel between two star Russian goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy has already firmly established himself as one of the strongest goalkeepers in the world, and in 2019 won the Vezina Trophy, while his compatriot is only on his way to this. On the eve of the start of the regular season, Ilya Sorokin was considered one of the main contenders for the award and generally met expectations. In the March review on the official website of the NHL, he was put on the fourth place among the main contenders for the trophy, and in a similar material on the portal The Hockey Writers - on the first. And this is despite the problems of new Yorkers, unlike Tampa, who did not solve the issues regarding participation in the Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately for Sorokin, the reporting meeting can hardly be recorded as his asset. On the one hand, it is impossible to blame him entirely for the defeat, because in most of the goals he was simply not to blame. But four goals conceded in less than 32 minutes and the subsequent replacement for Semyon Varlamov is not the best way to remind of your claims to vezina.
In total, the Lightning shipped five unanswered goals to the Islanders, and three of them involved the Russians. The defeat began with Mikhail Sergachev, who took Sorokin by surprise with a magnificent shot from the blue line. Moreover, his colleague in the role of Alexander Romanov became an unwitting assistant. It was the ricochet from his skate that disoriented Ilya and left him no chance to save his team. And midway through the second period, the Tampa defenseman played his 50th assist in the current regular season and made history. Aside from him, that bar has only been won by one Florida defensive player. Last year, Victor Hedman burst into 65 passes, and six years ago he limited himself to 56.
His compatriot allowed him to get close to reaching the star Swede. Nikita Kucherov rushed into the opponent's zone and converted an impromptu shootout, leaving Sorokin out of business for the third time. But that didn't seem enough to him. Already in the end, he confirmed the status of one of the best hockey players in the league in the game in the majority and once again helped Tampa to realize the numerical advantage. A subtle pass from the turn and Braden Point scores the 48th goal, cementing itself in fifth place in the scoring table.
As for Kucherov, he not only ranks fourth in points in the majority (45), behind only three Edmonton players - Connor McDavid (68), Leon Draisaitl (58) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (50), but also strengthened his position in the list of the best assistants of the championship. With 77 passes, he ranks second and is four assists ahead of his nearest rival, San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson. By the way, it was the Swede who took part in the abandoned puck of Danil Gushchin, who played his debut game in the NHL. Thanks to this, within the framework of one championship, 60 Russians took to the ice, which has not happened for 19 years.
Nevertheless, all these achievements did not contribute to the inclusion of Kucherov in the top three stars of the meeting. And although Sergachev was also not there, the presence of Russians was not dispensed with. The main creator of Tampa's success was Recognized as Vasilevskiy. The goaltender stopped 38 shots and scored his fourth cracker of the season, delivering some outstanding saves.
Georgiev's 35th victory and Samsonov's 31st rescue
For the fourth time, Toronto goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov also left his goal untouched. During the confrontation with Ottawa (3: 0), the Russian goalkeeper was forced to enter the game 31 times and did not fail once. Neither Matthew Joseph, who and his teammates ran into the gap in the minority, nor Jake Sanderson, who "shot" him from the spot after a cross pass from his partner, could force him to capitulate. Brady Tkachuk and Alex DeBrinkat also tried their hand, but in both cases the Russian was on top and helped out in the most difficult situations.
As a result, the well-deserved title of the first star of the game and the opportunity to establish the status of one of the most progressive goaltenders in the NHL. If a year ago Samsonov repelled an average of 89.6% of shots and conceded 3.02 goals per match, now the indicators are noticeably better (91.6% and 2.4, respectively). And in terms of reliability coefficient, he is fourth in the league among goalkeepers who have played more than 30 games.
Unlike his compatriot, Alexander Georgiev failed to defend for zero and become the sole leader of the championship in the number of "crackers", breaking away from the same Sorokin and Darcy Kemper (all - five each). But he helped Colorado take the upper hand over Dallas and scored its 35th win. Above him is only Linus Ullmark (37), whose great game helped Boston win the President's Cup ahead of schedule.
The Avalanche prevailed 5-2 on their own ice, with Valery Nichushkin scoring the fourth goal. With 188 seconds left before the final siren, the Russian struck an empty goal for the Stars and extended his team's lead. And although later the guests managed to reduce the gap, they were not enough for more. The point in the match was set by Mikko Rantanen.
For Nichushkin, this goal was the 17th, and this is the second result in his career. He differed more only in the last, championship season (25). True, the reason for this is not in the decrease in performance, but in the injury. Because of it, he missed all of November and a third of December and by this point had played only 46 matches. At the same time, in terms of the pace of scoring points, he gives the best regular season in his career (0.97 per game).