Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman each posted four points as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 7-4, in a rollicking game on Saturday night. Kucherov scored twice while Hedman had four helpers. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Killorn, Nick Paul, and Mikhail Sergachev also scored for the Lightning while Brian Elliott made 14 saves on 18 shots.
With the win, the Lightning hit the 100 point mark for the fifth time under Coach Cooper and maintained their place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With his four helpers, Hedman hit the 50-assist mark for the second time in his career, he is the only Lightning defenseman to ever record 50 or more assists in a season.
In an effort to get Andrei Vasilevskiy a little rest down the stretch, Brian Elliott made his second start (and third appearance) in the Lightning’s last four games.
After allowing zero goals in his last two appearances, Elliott eliminated any suspense on how long he could keep the streak going as he allowed a goal just 56 seconds into the contest.
Peter Stastny (Nic Ehlers, Kyle Conner) 1-0 Winnipeg
Don’t worry, things were just getting started in the goal scoring department. Along with all of the offense, there would also be a couple of dustups, the first coming after Adam Lowry hit Nikita Kucherov. Zach Bogosian took umbrage to Lowry’s interference and took up arms against him.
On the ensuing power play, Alex Killorn scored his second goal in as many games. I’m not sure what he did to the replay gods, but for the third time in those two games, VAR (video assisted replay) came into play. Unlike the previous two times, this one withstood the review and the goal stood.
Alex Killorn (Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman) Power Play - 1-1
Stop me if you’ve heard this before at some point over the last five years ago - an opponent split the Lightning defense in the neutral zone and had a breakaway opportunity. This time it’s Kyle Connor, and despite Mikhail Sergachev’s aggressive backcheck, the Winnipeg forward was able to slip it under Elliott for his 43rd goal of the season (could he be yet another 50-goal scorer in the NHL this season?)
Kyle Connor (Pierre-Luc Dubois) 2-1 Winnipeg
Do the Lightning go quietly into the locker room? No they do not. Cue up the School Bus Line. What they lack in foot speed they make up for in tenacity and puck retrieval. Pretty sure all of the Winnipeg defenders were kind of in awe at how far Jan Rutta’s shot missed the net and were just kind of standing around as Pierre-Edouard Bellmare got to the puck and fired it quickly past Connor Hellebuyck (who surrendered 7 goals on 32 shots).
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Jan Rutta, Victor Hedman) 2-2
All that hard work to tie the score went away in the first half of the second period as Winnipeg scored twice within the first ten minutes. On the first one, Elliott made the initial stop, kind of lost track of the puck that was under his pad and when he lifted it, Josh Morrissey poked it in.
Josh Morrissey (Adam Lowry, Mason Appeton) 3-2 Winnipeg
The Lightning challenged the play for offside, but lost. They almost killed off the Winnipeg power play that followed, but with just two seconds left Blake Wheeler tips one past Elliott. Deflections, they’re all the rage.
Blake Wheeler (Neal Pionk, Dominic Toniato) Power Play - 4-2 Winnipeg
Well, that’s disappointing. The Lightning are going to allow a team to come into their building on a Saturday night and run all over them. On replica ring night, nonetheless! Well, these guys said, “not on our watch”.
Can we add this game to the Teams Get Fired Up By a Fight narrative that is prevalent in hockey? Who knows? Corey Perry took on Zach Sanford and then the Lightning offense took off, so, sure why not?
New guy Nick Paul kicked off a five-goal outburst that not only put the Lightning ahead, but allowed them to win comfortably. It was a nice shot from the slot set up by Kucherov, but Paul also got things going with the forecheck behind the net that caused a turnover that led to the goal.
Nick Paul (Nikita Kucherov) 4-3 Winnipeg
If you’re a defense, what exactly are you supposed to do when Victor Hedman drops down low and then feeds an obviously gorgeous pass over to one of the best offensive players in the game? Dig the puck out of the back of the net, that’s what you do.
Nikita Kucherov (Victor Hedman, Nick Paul) 4-4
The third period started like the second - all tied up, but it was the Lightning providing all of the offense from that point on. First it was The Captain casually backhanding home his 33rd goal of the season. Credit to Ondrej Palat for the backcheck and working the puck through traffic to set up Stamkos.
Steven Stamkos (Ondrej Palat) 5-4 Tampa Bay
Getting the puck, shooting the puck, getting the puck again - that’s the Lightning way, baby. Kucherov gets credit for the tip-in goal, but it was the entire five-man unit that kept this play alive to set up the goal.
Nikita Kucherov (Victor Hedman) 6-4 Lightning
One more goal by Mikhail Sergachev finished off the scoring as Winnipeg forgot to cover the most dangerous scoring area on the ice.
Mikhail Sergachev (Erik Cernak, Nikita Kucherov) 7-4 Lightning
How about that? An actual winning streak for the Tampa Bay Lightning! With the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins both winning, everything stays the same in the Atlantic Division playoff race, but there is one less game for the Bruins to catch the Bolts.
Tampa Bay has the chance to run their winning streak to three games as they take on the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.