Vasilevskiy in goal for Tampa Bay for Game 4 vs Chicago
CHICAGO (AP) — Andrei Vasilevskiy was the surprise starter in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
The 20-year-old Vasilevskiy is the sixth goaltender in NHL history to make his first career playoff start in the final, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He had made just 19 appearances this season, counting the playoffs.
The Lightning said Ben Bishop was day to day with an undisclosed injury. He appeared to be dealing with some sort of groin or leg problem while making 36 saves in a gutsy performance in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory on Monday night. He participated in the morning skate on Wednesday, but coach Jon Cooper said they were in a “holding pattern” in terms of if he could play.
Vasilevskiy then led the team out of the tunnel for warmups before the game, signaling he was the starter. Game 5 is Saturday in Florida.
For Chicago, 16-year NHL veteran Kimmo Timonen returned to the lineup. The 40-year-old Timonen, who was acquired in a February trade with Philadelphia, missed most of the season while recovering from blood clots in his leg and lungs. The defenseman plans to retire after the playoffs.
“I’m really excited,” he said after Chicago’s morning skate. “It’s been a long couple weeks here and you know, I’ve been working out hard just to hope I get this chance to play one more, or more games, and looks like that moment came today.”
Timonen has four goals and 31 assists in 102 postseason games. He hasn’t played since Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against Anaheim.
The one missing piece from Timonen’s career is a Stanley Cup title. He made it to the 2010 final with Philadelphia and was on the ice when Patrick Kane scored in overtime in Game 6 to clinch the series for Chicago.
The appearance in Game 4 means Timonen’s name would go on the Cup if the Blackhawks win the title.
“He’s smart, experienced,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think he did a good job for us throughout the playoffs. Gives him a chance to get in here in a good moment, a big moment. His reads and his position awareness and coverage in his own end will help him.”
Defenseman Johnny Oduya also was in Chicago’s lineup after he was hampered by an upper-body injury in the last part of Game 3.
Timonen replaced Kyle Cumiskey, and Kris Versteeg was in for Bryan Bickell. Versteeg played in each of the first two games against the Lightning, but he was scratched for Monday night’s 3-2 loss.
The mindset is “just to go out there and play my game,” Versteeg said. “I thought the first two games there was glimpses of it, but I really look forward to trying to get my entire game back to where it should be.”
The final has been a busy time for Versteeg, who has 16 goals and 25 assists in 81 career playoff appearances. Versteeg and his wife, Brittany, welcomed their first child, son Jaxson James Versteeg, before the start of the series.
“That’s the most difficult part, is not seeing him,” Versteeg said. “I think FaceTime’s really helped out with that.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap