Kucherov leads Lightning past Canadiens 3-2 in shootout
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — With their latest run, the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning have reached a new milestone: first in the league to 100 points.
Nikita Kucherov scored the tying goal in the third period and converted in the fourth round of the shootout, and Tampa Bay beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Saturday. The Lightning improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, with six victories coming in overtime or in the shootout.
“You have to give credit to the guys. They’ve found a way to get points and that’s what you have to do,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Kucherov scored his 33rd of the season with 6:17 left in regulation, standing on top of the crease to convert a pass from Steven Stamkos to beat Antti Niemi and force overtime. It was the seventh time in the past eight games that the Lightning were tied at the end of regulation.
The Canadiens — third-worst in the Eastern Conference with 62 points — gave the Lightning all they could handle, never trailing in the game. Montreal kept in check a Tampa Bay team that had scored three or more goals 14 times in its previous 15 games.
“I don’t want to make it sound like I’m OK with losing because I’m not and we’re not,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said, “but I appreciated the effort this afternoon. I thought our guys played hard and we really pushed.”
Artturi Lehkonen put Montreal in front early with a power-play goal on a one-timer after the rebound of Charles Hudon’s shot was blocked and landed right in his path at 4:10 of the opening period. Tyler Johnson responded with his 20th of the season, also on the power play, at 13:43 to tie the game.
Alex Galchenyuk put the Canadiens back in front at 3:00 of the second period after Ryan McDonagh, playing his first game with Tampa Bay since being acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 26, had his cross-ice pass intercepted by Hudon, which led to a 3-on-1 break the other way.
But Montreal was unable to create more separation, failing to convert on a pair of third-period power-play chances.
“You have to make sure to capitalize on those chances and get a two-goal lead,” former Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin said. “Especially when you’re playing a team like that with so much offense and so much power. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Lightning found a spark when J.T. Miller, acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline, was moved onto the line with Stamkos and Kucherov to start the third period. On the tying goal, Miller forced a turnover behind the net to get the puck to Stamkos.
“If you told me a while ago I would have been playing on a line with those two, I would have laughed,” said Miller, who has two goals and six points in six games since the trade. “It’s a heck of an opportunity. It makes my job easy playing with those guys. Fortunate to get one in the third there and come out with the win.”
NOTES: The Lightning reached the 100-point mark for the fifth time in franchise history. ... Montreal C Phillip Danault missed the first 10 minutes of the third period and played just two shifts total. .. Tampa Bay G Louis Domingue started his seventh game of the season with the Lightning, his first at home. ... Tyler Johnson became the sixth player to reach 20 goals this season for Tampa Bay, which includes Vladislav Namestnikov, who was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 26. ... Lightning D Ryan McDonagh appeared in his first game since Feb. 7, logging 19 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time in his Tampa Bay debut.
Lightning: Host Ottawa on Tuesday.
Canadiens: At Columbus on Monday.
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