Detroit — Right now there’s no hotter goal-scorer than Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
But Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is right behind Ovechkin, and that gave the Lightning the edge they needed in Monday’s 3-2 victory over the Red Wings.
Kucherov scored twice — he’s scored in all six games this season and now has seven goals (Ovechkin has 9) — sparking Tampa to the victory.
Kucherov had a power-play goal in the first period and then broke a 2-2 tie in the third by poking a puck past goaltender Jimmy Howard at 1 minute, 47 seconds.
“I went to cover it and he poked it under me,” Howard said.
Kucherov has nine career regular-season goals against the Red Wings in 16 games.
Detroit coach on team's 3-2 defeat to Tampa on Monday. Ted Kulfan
“He’s right up there as one of the best players in the league,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He (Tampa coach Jon Cooper) gets him on the ice in a lot of different situations. He’s (Kucherov) got a lot of poise and a great stick a great offensive mind.
“Certainly he’s one of the better players in the league.”
With a goal in six consecutive games, Kucherov joins a select group of Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk, who’ve accomplished the feat.
The Red Wings (4-2, 8 points) saw their modest two-game win streak come to an end. Tampa is 5-1 (10 points).
It was Tampa’s eighth consecutive regular-season victory over the Red Wings (0-7-1) dating back to 2015.
“We’re a pretty solid team in this league as well,” said Howard, who stopped 23 shots. “I don’t think we’re going out there and thinking ‘Wow, we’re playing the Lightning’, or anything like that. They missed the playoffs just like us (last season).”
Justin Abdelkader (penalty shot) and Mike Green had second-period goals, tying the game after Tampa had taken a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
Tampa’s Tyler Johnson (shorthanded) opened the scoring.
The Red Wings roared back on Abdelkader’s goal, which came after a long, strange sequence.
Red Wings forward discusses how events unfolded that led to his taking a penalty shot, which resulted in the team's first goal in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Lightning. Ted Kulfan
It appeared as if the Wings' Darren Helm had scored to make it 2-1, knocking in a rebound off Abdelkader’s shot. But Tampa challenged the goal, claiming Abdelkader interfered with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Video review upheld the challenge, keeping the score 2-0 in favor of Tampa.
But, ah, the officials were not done yet.
Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman was called for hooking on Abdelkader’s initial breakaway attempt, putting Hedman in the penalty box.
But since it was a hooking call on a breakaway, Abdelkader was awarded a penalty shot, which the Wings forward neatly deposited past Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the season. It was certainly one of the odder sequences leading to a goal.
“I thought there was a good chance (of a penalty shot) because the referee had mentioned it, that if the goal wasn’t allowed then there’d be a penalty shot,” Abdelkader said. “I was preparing myself in case that happened.”
Both teams failed on a power-play attempt afterward, but the Red Wings tied it late in the second period on Green’s first goal — and ninth point.
Tomas Tatar carried the puck into the zone, waited patiently, and found Green trailing. Vasilevskiy stopped the first shot, but Green got the rebound and put in the rebound at 16:02.
“It was a big goal for sure,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We felt we had played pretty good. The score didn’t really reflect the start of the game. But that happens. We will get those ones (shorthanded opportunities) during the season, too.
“We fought back into the game.”
But in the end, Kucherov wasn’t going to cool off in this game.
“I’d say we were the better team 5-on-5. We had more quality chances,” Blashill said. “The difference would have been specialty teams. They scored two special team (goals) and we scored zero. That’s the difference.
“There were a lot of things where we were real good. We certainly didn’t get the result we wanted.”