TAMPA – Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals to break a 2-2 tie and lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Amalie Arena Thursday evening.
The Lightning picked up their second win of the season after going 0-2–1 on a three-game road trip following the opening night win over the Nashville Predators, 5-3.
Kucherov put Tampa Bay ahead for good at 16:52 in the second period when he corralled the puck off the wall on a pass from Branden Hagel. He then fired a one-timer from behind the right circle and to the right side of Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko and it found the back of the net.
Anthony Cirelli was in the center and may have provided enough of a distortion of Stamkos’ shot to help Kucherov with his third goal of the season.
Then, early in the third period, Kucherov scored his fourth goal of the season on the power play as he took the pass from Nick Paul on the right side of the net and drilled his second goal of the evening for a 4-2 Bolts advantage at 4:42 in the third period.
“Paul makes a really nice play,” explained Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. “He kind of looked off ‘Kuch’ and then gave it to him. It all starts with battle wins and you have to win your battles. The times we were stuck in the end, we weren’t winning battles.”
Stamkos returned to action after missing games in Ottawa and Buffalo on the past three-game road trip. He had a lower-body injury in the 6-4 loss in Detroit on a blocked shot.
After Vancouver’s Brock Boeser picked up his fifth goal of the new season just 12 seconds into the second period, Tyler Myers gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead at 1:02 when he scored from behind the left circle.
Tampa Bay then had to work for a momentum shift and forward Mikey Eyssimont provided the opportunity.
Later in the second period when Conor Sheary dug out the puck along the wall in the neutral zone, Eyssimont skated along the left side of the ice where Sheary hit him with the pass. Sheary didn’t drop down off the pass and Eyssimont made the most of the moment.
“We have been messing with a lot of different combinations this season so nothing has stuck,” said Eyssimont. “Good defense led to offense and I thought it stuck.”
The former Winnipeg Jet and San Jose Shark skated into the left face-off circle with the puck and fired over Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko’s left shoulder to tie the score at 2-2 at the 15:43 mark of the second period.
“It all starts 200 feet from our net,” analyzed Cooper. “We have a great play coming out, a nice pass, and ‘Eyssi’ finished it.”
Eyssimont’s first goal of the season changed the momentum of the game and set the pace for Kucherov’s two markers.
“It was a big goal for us,” noted Cooper. “Had a tough shift to open the period and they got two. ‘Eyssi’ gave us the life we needed and Kuch took over after that.”
The shifting momentum in the second period then stayed with the Lightning throughout the rest of the game..
“We actually had a pretty good period, possession life, and stuff like that,” noted Cooper on the second period. “It was just that you give up two and it felt like a minute in real-time. It takes you from the lead we didn’t have any longer.”
The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 lead at 11:10 in the first period when Nick Paul scored a power play goal which was his fourth goal of the young season on a pass from Steven Stamkos.
Paul stole the puck in the left circle in front of Demko. He served the puck to Stamkos who was in the right circle. He followed Stamkos’ shot with that third goal of the season.
As Paul and Kucherov both connected on the power play goals, it marked the third and fourth scores at home with the extra attacker as the Lightning were 2-of-3 off the power play on Thursday evening.
“Good players make good plays and there is always someone open,” said Paul. “Now, it seems to be clicking. Gotta ride some waves. Consistency in practice. If you practice every time and know your options, good things will happen.”
Lightning goalie Jonas Johansson stopped 26-of-29 Canucks shots as he made 13 stops in the first period.
“I think he is starting to play some games now and we are not seeing holes in his game,” said Cooper of Johansson’s play. “He gives us a chance to win and he can handle playing every second night, so far. So that’s been good to see.”
Tampa Bay has now won seven game in a row vs. Vancouver and the Lightning stand at 8-2-0 in the last ten matchups with the Canucks.