Kucherov’s OT goal lifts Lightning past Canucks, 3-2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning feel like things are starting to come together.
Nikita Kucherov scored 3:50 into overtime to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
After an end-to-end 3-on-3 extra period, Kucherov finished it on a breakaway against Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom for his 16th of the season.
Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for Tampa Bay, which rallied from two goals down to beat Edmonton 3-2 the previous night.
“These last couple of games ... it hasn’t been perfect,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But we played pretty well, the effort has been outstanding and we got four points out of it.”
Expected to challenge for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning began the day having lost 112 man games to injury and currently sit in the second wild-card spot. Add to that the constant talk surrounding the future of captain Steven Stamkos, and it hasn’t been an easy ride.
“We’re halfway through the season and we’re not where we expected to be, but we finally got our team back,” Cooper said. “We’ve finally got healthy and have some stability in our group.”
Tampa Bay won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December.
Bo Horvat had a goal and an assist, and Sven Baertschi also scored for Vancouver. Markstrom finished with 32 saves in his seventh straight start. The Canucks dropped to 1-8 in overtime.
“Any time you play as well as we did and only get one point, it’s tough,” Horvat said. “We have to take the positives out of it and move on.”
Tied 1-1 through 40 minutes, the Lightning took the lead with 7:40 left in the third just as a Vancouver penalty expired. Filppula’s shot deflected off the foot of Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler and past Markstrom for his fifth of the season.
The Canucks challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the play stood up after video review.
Horvat, who has four goals and one assist in his last three games after a 27-game scoreless streak — tied the score with 2:50 left in regulation with his sixth of the season on a shot off the rush that sneaked past Vasilevskiy.
That set up a wild overtime where Vancouver had the majority of the chances before Tampa Bay struck.
“It’s back-and-forth hockey,” Markstrom said. “It’s fun for the fans, not so much for the goalies. It is what it is. They wanted more games not to go to a shootout, and that works for sure.”
Tampa Bay grabbed a 1-0 lead 3:41 into this game when Killorn finished off a nice give-and-go with Kucherov by outwaiting Markstrom for his seventh of the season.
The Canucks, who beat the Lightning in December despite being short-handed 10 times, tied the score on the power play with 4:36 left in the first on a highlight-reel effort. Horvat sped into the Tampa Bay zone and made a slick deke on Lightning star defenseman Victor Hedman before sliding a pass to Baertschi, who tapped in his seventh.
Horvat and Baertschi, who now has five goals and two assists over his last seven games, are starting to provide some much-needed secondary scoring behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin, a positive for the Canucks despite the loss.
″(Horvat and Baertschi) are playing with more confidence,” Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. “When they’re coming to the rink they’re excited. Confidence is such a big part of the game and they both have good ability.”
NOTES: Vancouver rookie forward Jake Virtanen had a spirited game in his return to the lineup following the world junior hockey championship. The 19-year-old took some heat for his undisciplined play in Canada’s quarterfinal loss to Finland, but was the Canucks’ best player early and drew the penalty that led to Baertschi’s goal in the first. ... Ryan Miller dressed as Vancouver’s backup after missing the last six games with a groin injury. ... Canucks forward Jannik Hansen sat out with an upper-body injury suffered in Wednesday’s victory over Carolina. Alexandre Burrows moved up the lineup to skate alongside the Sedins on Vancouver’s top line.