Nikita Kucherov returned to the Tampa Bay lineup Thursday night after a 32-game absence and produced two assists in the Lightning’s 4-1 win over the visiting Calgary Flames.
In the third period with Tampa Bay up 1-0, linemate Brayden Point took a nifty cross-ice pass from Kucherov and easily scored past goalie Dan Vladar at 2:52.
Kucherov helped make it 3-0 when his hard work behind Vladar ended with the three-time All-Star spinning and sending a pass to Ondrej Palat, who potted his 13th marker nearly eight minutes later from the low slot.
After suffering a lower-body injury in the season’s third game on Oct. 16 against the Washington Capitals, Kucherov – winner of the Art Ross and Hart trophies – skated in his usual position at right wing on a line with Point at center and Palat at left wing.
The NHL’s leader in goalie wins, Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 26 of 27 shots to run his record to 19-5-3.
Point notched his fifth goal and ninth point in six games since his return to the lineup on Dec. 28, and Corey Perry scored for the second consecutive game for the Lightning, who are 8-0-1 in their past nine home games.
Ryan McDonagh posted two assists.
Dillon Dube found the net for the fourth time, and Vladar made 29 saves for the Flames, who are 2-4-1 over the past seven games and were outscored 10-3 in their two defeats in Florida.
A first-period fight between Mathieu Joseph and Noah Hanifin at 10:08 left the Lightning’s Joseph with an extra two minutes for roughing. However, Tampa Bay’s penalty-kill unit allowed only one shot.
But Calgary’s unit was equally up to the task on the Lightning’s first power play. The home side held a 14-8 shot advantage after 20 scoreless minutes.
Perry finished off a brilliant speed rush led by Victor Hedman, who sent a perfectly timed pass to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare entering the offensive zone.
Bellemare whipped a pass to Perry for his 10th goal at 12:21 – giving the former 50-goal scorer one more tally than his nine last season with Montreal.
Shortly after, Brad Richardson was given a match penalty for an illegal head shot on Joseph at 14:41.
After Palat made it 3-0, Alex Killorn tallied for the 11th time just 14 seconds later.
Dube’s marker at 15:54 broke Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid, but the Lightning moved to 7-1-2 against the Western Conference.
-Field Level Media
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