Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jonathan Drouin were the difference-makers in Tampa Bay's Game 1 win over Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Eastern Conference finals have kicked off, and it was the Lightning who struck first against the Penguins, as they beat Pittsburgh 3–1 in Game 1. Goalie Ben Bishop was taken off of the ice on a stretcher, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to step up in the wake of his departure, earning him a spot on our list of the Three Stars. Who else joins him? Here are the standouts from Friday night's action in Pittsburgh.
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
It was a big night for Palat both with and without the puck. Tampa's Swiss army knife scored a power play goal in the second that put the Bolts up 2–0, and later sauced a perfect apple to Jonathan Drouin for the insurance marker. He was also the biggest bomber on either side, collecting eight hits to help set the tone in what turned out to be a surprisingly physical game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
For a kid who figured his night would consist of nothing more than opening a gate while rocking a baseball cap, Vasilevskiy sure looked dialed in when he was called on to replace the injured Ben Bishop. He responded to the high stakes with a poised performance, making 23 saves on 24 shots to secure the win. With that, according to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first goalie since Olaf Kolzig in 1995 to earn each of his first two playoff wins in relief.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
He wasn't on the ice much Friday night (just 13:15, seventh among Tampa forwards), but it seemed like something magical happened every time Drouin hopped over the boards. He almost staked the Bolts to an early lead with a brilliant cross-ice feed to Palat, but his one-timer was denied by a brilliant glove save from Matt Murray. He got his revenge in the second though, finishing a two-on-one with a wicked one-time that was under the bar so quickly that he might have been the only person in the arena who knew what happened. This kid sure is fun to watch.