Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman help Lightning beat Jets 7-4
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Nikita Kucherov scored twice and added two assists, Victor Hedman had four assists and the Tampa Bay Lightning tied a season high in goals in a 7-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.
Two-time defending champion Tampa Bay won consecutive games for the first time since a four-game winning streak from March 26 to April 1.
Steven Stamkos and Nick Paul each had a goal and an assist, Mikhail Sergchev, Alex Killorn and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored, and Brian Elliott stopped 14 shots for his 10th victory of the season.
Kyle Connor, Paul Stastny, Josh Morrissey and Adam Lowry scored for Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves before being replaced by Eric Comrie, who stopped all five shots he faced. The Jets have just two wins in their last eight games.
“I don’t know whether it’s tired, lack of motivation from some guys in the room,” Connor said. “It’s definitely frustrating.’’
The Lightning scored three goals in the third period to break a 4-4 tie.
Stamkos broke the tie with a backhander three minutes into the period Kucherov scored his second of the night at 6:50, tipping a shot-pass from Hedman before Sergachev capped the scoring at 11:55.
“It kind of felt like our old selves a bit in the third in terms of just the execution of the plays and the plays we were making,” Stamkos said. “That was kind of the hockey that we’re accustomed to playing and playing with confidence and poise.’’
The Lightning scored seven goals in a game for the fifth time this season.
“We just want to win hockey games, that’s the bottom line, it doesn’t matter how it goes or how we win them,” Hedman said. “Today was a high scoring affair and we’re happy we get out with the two points.’’
The teams traded goals in the first period, Stastny deflecting a Nikolaj Ehlers shot 56 seconds into the game, which was answered by a power play goal from Killorn at 6:05. Connor scored his 43rd of the season on a breakaway at 13:46, with Tampa Bay answered at 18:21 by Bellemare, who threw a puck from the side boards that hit the stick of Pierre-Luc Dubois and deflected past Hellebuyck.
Morrissey followed up a shot from Adam Lowry and poked in the loose puck to put the Jets in front 3-2 at 7:36 of the second period. Tampa Bay challenged the play for offside, but the goal was upheld after review and the Lightning were assessed a delay of game penalty. With two seconds remaining on the man advantage, Neal Pionk sent a wrist shot from the right point that was tipped by Blake Wheeler to give the Jets a 4-2 lead at 9:34.
The Lightning clawed back in with Paul taking a sweeping Kucherov backhand pass and settling the puck down for a wrist shot at 13:56 to make it 4-3. Then late in the period, Kucherov worked a give-and-go with Hedman, Kucherov finishing off the return pass to tie the game at 18:03.
“I thought we were in control of the hockey game,” Winnipeg interim coach Dave Lowry said. “We were up 4-2 and then they had a couple of shifts back-to-back where they were able to score that third goal and then equalize the game before the period was over. We did a lot of good things for two periods.’’
The Lightning signed backup goaltender Brian Elliott to a one-year contract extension on Friday for $900,000 to ensure he remains as the No. 2 netminder behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. Elliott entered Saturday with a 9-3-3 record, 2.23 goals against average and .921 save percentage. The 37-year-old who has had stops in Ottawa, Calgary, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado, was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“He’s another guy that’s a great pro and he’s an excellent complement to (Vasilevskiy),”’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
NOTES: Winnipeg C Mark Scheifele missed his third consecutive game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. … Jets RW Nikolaj Ehlers extended his scoring streak to a career-high nine games. … Stamkos ended a six-goal goals drought.
Jets: At New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Lightning: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.