December 8, 2017 / 3:51 AM / in a year

Power-play strike lifts Lightning past Avalanche

Power-play strike lifts Lightning past Avalanche

TAMPA, Fla. — Give the Tampa Bay Lightning enough chances, and the NHL’s top power-play team will keep scoring.

Tampa Bay pulled away with a power-play goal in the third period, its eighth consecutive game with at least one tally on the man advantage, in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning (20-6-2) missed on their first three power plays but scored on the fourth as Alex Killorn got his third goal of the season and his second in the past 25 games.

Tampa Bay has won three straight at home by a combined 16-6, while Colorado (12-13-2) dropped its fourth straight, giving up 16 goals in the past three.

Lightning center Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists, moving ahead of teammate Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead with 41 points. Vladislav Namestnikov also produced one goal and two assists.

Backup Tampa Bay goalie Peter Budaj picked up his second win in five starts this season, finishing with 28 saves, including 14 in the final period.

“It’s a tough job,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of being a backup goalie. “You always have to stay ready, whether it’s four or five in a row you’re not going to play. The tough part has always been the first few minutes, and then he settles in and he’s lights out. There’s a reason he’s been so good at it for so many years.”

Tampa Bay added a four-on-six short-handed empty-net goal from Brayden Point, who sent the puck the length of the ice to put the game away with 3:19 left. It was his 11th goal of the season.

The Lightning led 3-2 after two periods, thanks to a goal by Namestnikov — his 12th this season — with 11:51 left in the second. Stamkos fired a pass from behind the net to Tyler Johnson, whose shot bounced wide, and the quick rebound from Namestnikov went in for the lead.

The two teams traded goals early. Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, fresh off a four-game suspension, scored at 1:21, beating Budaj for his 10th goal.

“I was excited to be back out there and saw an opportunity to take it to the net,” Landeskog said. “I got lucky.”

That lead didn’t last long. Stamkos outskated two Avalanche defenders to track down a loose puck and backhand a shot past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov (27 saves) to tie the game 25 seconds later. The goal was the 12th for Stamkos.

“Stammer had a really strong game tonight,” Cooper said. “When you go down, to answer like that, I think everybody took a breath. We had a really strong first, and it was too bad we couldn’t come out with the lead, but we knew we were playing well.”

The Lightning took a 2-1 lead with 13:36 left in the first when Chris Kunitz redirected a shot from Dan Girardi past Varlamov for his fifth goal and second in as many games. Again, the Avalanche answered, with Erik Johnson getting a breakaway and putting a shot through Budaj’s legs for a 2-2 tie with 1:38 left in the period.

Colorado has struggled, especially on the defensive end, giving up a combined 16 goals in the past three losses as it continues a four-game road trip.

“That’s four in a row now. We have to find a way to get out of this one,” Landeskog said. “We’re going to have to watch some video and assess what we’re doing, what we can do better and what’s really costing us.”

Tampa Bay, which came in as the NHL’s top scoring team, led 3-2 after two periods thanks to Namestnikov’s goal.

NOTES: Lightning D Braydon Coburn missed a third consecutive game due to a lower-body injury, while D Jamie McBain and RW J.T. Brown were both healthy scratches. ... Colorado had D Duncan Siemens, LW Gabriel Bourque and RW Nail Yakupov as healthy scratches. ... Colorado continues a four-game road trip at the Florida Panthers on Saturday, while the Lightning wrap up a four-game homestand Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets before hitting the road for their next four.

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