Kucherov, Stamkos lead red-hot Lightning over Red Wings
TAMPA, Fla. — Steven Stamkos said the key to the incredible chemistry between him and Nikita Kucherov is in how the NHL’s top two scorers are “unpredictably predictable” in anticipating each other’s moves on the ice.
The two hottest players on the NHL’s hottest team continue to play at another level as Kucherov and Stamkos each scored — again — to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Stamkos scored the winning power-play goal in the third period on an assist from Kucherov with 13:38 left.
Both have scored points in all 11 games, matching the Lightning team record to start a season set by Martin St. Louis in 2009.
Tampa Bay (9-1-1) is off to its best start in franchise history.
“Teams are going to have to decide who they want to overplay,” Stamkos said. “At times, they’ve overplayed me and Kuch has been able to lock in and shoot, and on that play they overplayed him and I got an open net off a great pass. The power play’s been clicking so far and it’s a reason why we’ve won.”
Frans Nielsen scored his third and fourth goals of the season for Detroit (4-6-1), which dropped to 0-5-1 in its last six games with a prolonged scoring drought.
Brayden Point put the game away with a goal with 2:56 left in the third, getting the puck alone in front of the net and firing a shot past Jimmy Howard for his fifth goal of the season.
Detroit answered with a power-play goal from Nielsen with 1:49 left. The Red Wings, having pulled Howard, got another power play with 1:23 left for a six-on-four advantage, but the Lightning held on.
“We took too many penalties. It’s hard for the PK to keep killing them,” Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg said. “Eventually with the skill they have, they will score.”
Kucherov tied the score with a power-play goal in the first, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was in control the rest of the way, winning his eighth straight game and helping the Lightning to its first 6-0-0 start at home.
Vasilevskiy finished with 29 saves and has held opponents to four total goals in his last four games.
Both early goals came on Lightning power plays as Detroit got a short-handed goal with 5:42 left in the first period, as Nielsen got ahead on a two-on-one as defenseman Victor Hedman stumbled, and fired a shot to the top right corner of the net past Vasilevskiy for a 1-0 lead.
The short-handed goal was Detroit’s fourth of this season and the first allowed by the Lightning.
Tampa Bay, which had the NHL’s No. 1 power play entering the night, converted on another chance late in the first period.
Detroit was called for having too many men on the ice, and nine seconds into the man advantage the score was tied as Kucherov fired a shot past Howard to make it 1-1.
Howard made 35 saves but had his hands full in trying to top six power plays on the night.
“We’re just trying to create chances off their mistakes,” said Kucherov, who took a hooking penalty with 1:23 left to set up Detroit’s last power play and was grateful to see his teammates close out the win. “We use them, and it’s been good so far.”
For Kucherov, it was his 12th goal of the season, extending his NHL lead. Stamkos went into the night leading the NHL in points (20) with three goals and a league-best 17 assists.
“Two superstars, and they’ve got great chemistry,” Howard said. “We all know that. It’s no surprise. They’re great players.”
NOTES: The Lightning kept the same lineup as Tuesday night’s win at Carolina, with C Cedric Paquette missing a fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. C Gabriel Dumont and D Slater Koekkoek were healthy scratches for Tampa Bay. ... Detroit had hoped to have D Danny DeKeyser back for the first time, but he missed an eighth straight game with a lower-body injury. LW David Booth and RW Luke Witkowski were healthy scratches.