Saturday's NHL playoffs: Kucherov, Stamkos shine, lift Lightning over Hurrcianes 6-4
Tampa, Fla. — Just when it seemed the game might be slipping away, Nikita Kucherov asserted himself for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Two goals and an assist later Saturday, the resilient, defending Stanley Cup champions had a 6-4 victory and a 3-1 lead in their second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“To be honest, he might have taken the game over," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Clearly we lost control a little bit in the second period, and he’d been hit in a tough manner by one of their guys, and he just channeled his energy the right way.
“It was a 5-on-5 shift and he was just a beast out there. Then we had our power-play opportunities, and he was just making plays all over the place. He might have been the best player on the ice tonight. When Kuch is doing some of the stuff he did, he’s borderline unstoppable.”
Kucherov and Steven Stamkos each had a pair of goals and an assist, and the Lightning improved to 10-0 in games following a playoff loss over the past two postseasons. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Carolina.
Each team scored four goals in the second, with the Lightning turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. Stamkos and Kucherov scored on the power play and Tyler Johnson also beat Petr Mrazek in the final 5:22 of the period.
Teuvo Teravainen, Jesper Fast, Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin scored in the second for the Hurricanes. They hurt themselves by taking bad penalty after bad penalty while giving the Lightning six power-play opportunities.
“If you give that caliber of power play that many chances, it’s not a recipe for success," Slavin said. "We’ve just got to stay more disciplined and play hard, but play smart as well and not give them chances that they don’t need.”
Tampa Bay finished 3 of 6 on the power play, and it has scored five times with the man advantage in the last two games.
Carolina had its highest scoring game of the series, too. But the Hurricanes were 0 for 2 on the power play and struggled after going up 4-2 on Slavin’s goal at 12:41 of the second.
“It’s weird. There were 11 goals in the series and to see eight go in in the second period, that was chaotic, it was a circus out there,” Cooper said. “But definitely no refunds after that one. Take your coach’s hat off. That was one helluva entertaining second period.”
Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy weathered the Hurricanes' scoring barrage and didn’t allow another goal the rest of the way. He finished with 21 saves.
Carolina Rod Brind’Amour didn't take solace in finally breaking through against Vasilevskiy, who allowed five goals in the first three games combined.
“To be honest ... I think that was an opportunity where maybe he wasn’t his sharpest, and we scored four on him – we need to win that game. He’s probably not going to let four in again,” Brind'Amour said.
Kucherov, who has 17 points in 10 playoff games this year, began the comeback with a power-play goal. Johnson made it 4-4 before Stamkos netted his second power-play goal of the period.
Kucherov scored off a nice pass from Ondrej Palat for a 6-4 lead just over six minutes into the final period.
Mrazek stopped just 20 of 26 shots after making his first start of this postseason and getting a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3.
More Saturday results
(At) N.Y. Islanders 4, Boston 1: Mathew Barzal broke a tie late in the third period and the Islanders evened the second-round playoff series at two games apiece.
Kyle Palmieri, Casey Cizikas and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored for New York and Semyon Varlamov stopped 28 shots.
David Krejci scored for Boston and Tuukka Rask finished with 30 saves.
Game 5 is Monday night in Boston, with Game 6 back at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.
With the score tied 1-1 after two periods, New York’s Ryan Pulock fired a shot off Rask’s chest a little more than 6 minutes into the third, and the goalie covered up the rebound. Varlamov stopped a slap shot by Connor Clifton 81/2 minutes into the period, and one by David Pastrnak with 8:15 left.
The Islanders took the lead as Scott Mayfield’s point shot was redirected and deflected off Charlie McAvoy in front and Barzal batted the puck out of the air and past Rask with 6:57 left. Barzal scored for the second straight game after going scoreless for the first eight games of the postseason.
Boston pulled Rask for an extra skater with 1:12 left. Cizikas – who had the overtime goal in Game 2 – sealed it with an empty-netter 9 seconds later, and Pageau added one with 3 seconds to go.
Boston scored first for the third straight game. With Matt Martin off for holding to put the Bruins on their second power play, Krejci put in the rebound of a shot by Pastrnak at 3:57 of the second. The puck was loose in front and came to Krejci on the right side and he quickly put it in.
The Islanders challenged for goalie interference, but it stood after a review, putting the Bruins on another power play.
New York tied the score shortly after the penalty expired. Barzal skated back and forth along the right boards while defended by Curtis Lazar, then as he skated behind the net he sent a pass in front to Palmieri, who quickly beat Rask at 6:38. Palmieri, who had two goals in 17 games after being acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline, got his fifth of the postseason.
Rask had a stellar save on a try in close by Brock Nelson midway through the middle period to keep the score tied.
Barzal was down on the ice for several minutes after being slashed by Krejci, putting the Islanders on their first power play of the game with just under 9 minutes remaining. New York managed just two shots on goal during the advantage.
The Bruins outshot the Islanders 11-7 in a fast-paced and physical first period.
Mayfield and Boston’s Taylor Hall dropped gloves and traded punches 71/2 minutes into the game. Both players were given major penalties for the fight. There was more pushing and shoving two minutes later after Barzal was whistled for high-sticking in anticipation of a hit from Lazar. In the skirmish, New York’s Matt Martin and Bruins’ Jarred Tinordi also exchanged punches.
New York’s best scoring chance of the period came when Anthony Beauvillier had a driving chance in front but was denied on a pad save by Rask with about 5 minutes left.
Pastrnak had an open net from the left circle two minutes later, but fired a shot off the right post and Varlamov pounced on the rebound.