Stamkos, Johnson lead Lightning past Flyers 3-1
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Andrei Vasilevskiy provided the boost Tampa Bay needed to get out of its rut.
Vasilevskiy, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, made 23 saves to win his NHL debut, and Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson scored second-period goals for the Lightning in a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
''We've been going through a little bit of a tough stretch here,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ''We played him because he's a talented kid, but we thought he might be able to give us a spark and I thought clearly he did.''
Valtteri Filppula added an empty-netter and Ryan Callahan had a pair of assists for the Lightning (20-10-3), who won for the second time in six games. Tampa Bay took sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, breaking a tie with Detroit.
''We showed the character and the work ethic we have and we really deserved that win tonight,'' Stamkos said.
The Lightning captain said Vasilevskiy's presence helped.
''(Vasilevskiy) played outstanding,'' he said. ''I think everyone was excited to get the win, especially in his first game for him. It's weird how sports work sometimes - a little change and obviously guys want to win for him in his first start.''
Wayne Simmonds scored for Philadelphia (11-14-5), which entered 3-0-2 in its last five but lost its sixth straight to Tampa Bay. The Flyers are 3-12-1 against the Lightning since the 2010-11 season.
''They didn't give us a lot of room, and we didn't create enough offensive chances,'' Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
Stamkos tied the score 1:50 into the second period when he fired a wrist shot from the slot high over Steve Mason's blocker side. It was the 18th goal of the season for Stamkos, who entered tied for third in the league but had just one goal in his previous five games.
Johnson put the Lightning in front when he scored on a rebound with 13:26 left in the period.
Simmonds gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal with 40.4 seconds left in the first period when he deflected Mark Streit's slap shot past Vasilevskiy. It was the sixth goal in the last six games for Simmonds.
But Philadelphia couldn't get anything else past Vasilevskiy despite its game plan to fire as many shots as possible at him.
''I thought we did it early on in the game, but I thought we lost our energy,'' Berube said.
Philadelphia defenseman Nick Schultz saved a sure goal when he sprawled in the crease to deny Jonathan Drouin with 7:15 left in the first after Mason had been drawn out of his crease.
Vasilevskiy kept Tampa Bay ahead with a point-blank stop of Michael Raffl's follow attempt with 6 1/2 minutes remaining.
''It's awesome,'' Vasilevskiy said. '' It's my childhood dream. I'm very excited. It's the best feeling in my life.''
Vasilevskiy started in place of Ben Bishop, who left after the first period of Monday's 4-2 loss at Pittsburgh with a lower-body injury. Backup goalie Evgeni Nabokov played the final two periods against the Penguins.
Vasilevskiy was selected the AHL player of the week Monday after going 2-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average last week for Syracuse. The 20-year-old learned only Tuesday morning that he would start.
''`OK, why not?''' he said of his response to Cooper upon getting the nod.
Vasilevskiy placed a game puck in his gym bag and said he plans on displaying it in a trophy case in his home.
''This will be for sure a night he'll always remember,'' Cooper said. ''It did not look like it was his first NHL game.''
Mason made 20 saves for Philadelphia.
Flyers right wing Claude Giroux, who entered tied for the NHL lead in assists, got his 27th of the season.
NOTES: Former Flyers captain Peter Forsberg was honored in a pregame ceremony for his recent Hall of Fame induction. ... Tampa Bay F Ondrej Palat (lower body) missed his fourth straight game. ... Flyers C Vincent Lecavalier was a healthy scratch for the sixth time in the last seven games. He also missed one game with a lower-body injury. ... The Lightning beat the Flyers 4-2 at Tampa Bay on Oct. 30.