The Tampa Bay Lightning feel like things are starting to come together.
Nikita Kucherov scored at 3:51 of overtime Saturday as the Lightning beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 for their second victory in as many nights.
After an end-to-end 3-on-3 extra period, Kucherov took advantage of a poor Vancouver line change to beat Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom on a breakaway for his 16th of the season.
Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula also scored for Tampa Bay (21-17-4), which came back from two goals down in the third period on Friday to beat Edmonton 3-2.
“These last couple of games ... it hasn’t been perfect,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “But we played pretty well, the effort has been outstanding and we got four points out of it.”
Expected to challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning entered Saturday having lost 112 man games to injury and currently sit in the second wild-card spot. Add to that the constant talk surrounding the future of captain Steven Stamkos, and it hasn’t been an easy ride.
“We’re halfway through the season and we’re not where we expected to be, but we finally got our team back,” said Cooper. “We’ve finally got healthy and have some stability in our group.”
Kucherov picked up an assist for a two-point outing and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who started in place of No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop, made 21 stops as Tampa Bay won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December.
Bo Horvat, with a goal and an assist, and Sven Baertschi replied for Vancouver (16-16-10), which got 32 saves from Markstrom in his seventh straight start as the Canucks fell to 1-8 in overtime.
“Any time you play as well as we did and only get one point, it’s tough,” said Horvat. “We have to take the positives out of it and move on.”
Tied 1-1 through 40 minutes, the Lightning took the lead at 12:20 of the third just as a Vancouver penalty expired when Filppula’s shot deflected off the foot of Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler and past Markstrom for his fifth.
The Canucks challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the goal stood after video review.
Horvat – who has four goals and one assist in his last three games after going 27 straight without scoring – tied the score with 2:50 left in regulation with his sixth of the campaign on a shot off the rush that snuck past Vasilevskiy’s blocker.
That set up a wild overtime where Vancouver had the majority of the chances before Tampa Bay struck.
“It’s back-and-forth hockey,” said Markstrom. “It’s fun for the fans, not so much for the goalies. It is what it is. They wanted more games not to go to a shootout, and that works for sure.”
Tampa Bay grabbed a 1-0 lead 3:41 into the first when Killorn finished off a nice give-and-go with Kucherov by outwaiting Markstrom for his seventh of the season.
The Canucks beat the Lightning in December despite being shorthanded 10 times, and got that one back on the power play with 4:36 left in the first on a highlight-reel effort. Horvat sped into the Tampa Bay zone and made a slick deke on star Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman before sliding a pass to Baertschi, who tapped in his seventh.
Horvat and Baertschi, who now has five goals and two assists over his last seven games, are starting to provide some much-needed secondary scoring behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin, a positive for the Canucks despite the loss.
“(Horvat and Baertschi) are playing with more confidence,” said Vancouver head coach Willie Desjardins. “When they’re coming to the rink they’re excited. Confidence is such a big part of the game and they both have good ability.”Report Typo/Error