Kucherov, Point shine in 5-1 Lightning win

AP, NEWARK, New Jersey

Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 16

Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point like playing on the same line, and it is a combination that is working out well for the Tampa Bay Lightning, too.

Kucherov on Monday had a goal and three assists for his first four-point game, while Point added a goal and two assists as the Lightning defeated the struggling New Jersey Devils 5-1.

“He’s a speedy player who is fun to play with,” Kucherov said of Point.

Point returned the compliment.

“He’s so easy to play with,” he said. “He gets the puck to me in easy places. Kuch just works some good passes and I just shoot.”

Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, while Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde also scored to help the Lightning become the first team in the NHL to reach 20 wins this season.

Ryan McDonagh had two assists and Louis Domingue stopped 26 shots as Tampa Bay got their third straight win and the sixth in seven games.

Egor Yakovlev scored his first career goal for the Devils, who have lost six straight and eight of nine.

Keith Kinkaid started and gave up four goals on 20 shots before he was pulled after two periods. Cory Schneider made five saves in the third period.

“You have to give them credit,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “They are a heck of a hockey team. They just outworked us. Sometimes, it becomes a slippery slope. We didn’t play well enough to win the game.”

New Jersey seemed to have the better of the early play, outshooting the Lightning 7-1 over the first 10 minutes, but it did not take long for league’s top offensive team to get going.

First, Kucherov extended his points streak to 10 games with a goal with a little more than six minutes left in the first period.

Point continued his mastery over the Devils with a power-play goal with less than a minute remaining in the period. It was Point’s 20th goal of the season and his sixth goal in nine career games against New Jersey.

“I think at that point, momentum was in our favor,” veteran Stamkos said. “I think that goal took a lot out of them.”

The Lightning made it 3-0 when McDonagh’s wrist-shot was deflected in front by Johnson for his 11th at 8 minutes, 20 seconds of the second period.

The Devils crept back into the game with 8:14 left when rookie defenseman Yakovlev got his first goal, but the Lightning wasted little time to push the lead back to three when Gourde scored his 10th just 1:13 later.

Stamkos scored a power-play goal in the first 20 seconds of the third period. It was his ninth of the season.

“Maybe the pucks are bouncing well for one team,’’ said Point, who now has five goals and eight assists in his past five regular-season games against New Jersey. “`They were competing. They were finishing their checks. We just played well.”