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Cooper: Lalonde made up story about Vasilevskiy's weakness

Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper denied what his former assistant, Derek Lalonde, said about Bolts goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy on national TV in Canada earlier this week.

Lalonde, now the Detroit Red Wings head coach, has provided in-studio analysis for Sportsnet during these playoffs. He said Monday night that the Lightning coaching staff restructured its defensive coverage during his tenure to compensate for Vasilevskiy's apparent weakness in tracking shots from long range.

Cooper suggested Lalonde conjured up the anecdote when asked about it Wednesday.

"Sportsnet is paying him well to go give an opinion, so he's got to make something up about that kind of stuff," Cooper said.

"He's there because he was an assistant coach on this team, so he's trying to offer insight and trying to give the fans something, and so he should be doing that," the bench boss added. "He's just got to make sure it's accurate what he's saying."

Cooper reiterated his stance when asked whether he felt Lalonde gave out too much inside information.

"Well, it's got to be accurate before you say it, that's my only (criticism)," he said.

Lalonde was an assistant coach under Cooper for the previous four seasons. The Red Wings hired him as head coach last July.

Vasilevskiy has allowed a handful of goals from long range during the Lightning's first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which Tampa trails 3-1.

Vasilevskiy has surrendered a league-high 19 goals with a .856 save percentage - the lowest among all netminders who've played at least three games - in this postseason. The 28-year-old posted a .915 clip over 60 games during the regular season for his lowest pre-playoff save percentage since 2015-16.

Cooper, Lalonde, and Vasilevskiy won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships together in 2020 and 2021 and reached another final in 2022.

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