League-best Lightning with 6th straight, beat Coyotes
GLENDALE — Nikita Kucherov scored to remain tied for the NHL goals lead and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night for their season-high sixth straight victory.
Kucherov matched Washington’s Alex Ovechkin with his 22nd goal to help the NHL-best Lightning push aside the league-worst Coyotes in front of a small, quiet crowd.
Vladislav Namestnikov, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson also scored and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves for his NHL-best 21st victory. Coming off a 3-0 victory in St. Louis on Tuesday night in a matchup of the NHL’s top teams, the Lightning are 22-6-2 for 48 points — 29 more than the Coyotes (7-22-5).
Clayton Keller scored, and Antti Raanta made 42 saves in Arizona’s fifth straight loss. After playing an NHL-high 21 road games, Arizona opened a five-game home stand and will play eight of its next 10 at Gila River Arena.
Namestnikov and Point scored in a 41-second span midway through the first period. Namestnikov jammed in a rebound off Steven Stamkos’ power-play shot after Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski was sent off for slashing following a long stretch in the Arizona end. On Tampa Bay’s next rush, Point deked Raanta and slipped a backhander between the goalie’s leg pads. Point has scored in five straight games.
Kucherov made it 3-0 on a shot through traffic at 6:11 of the second, and Keller ended Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid on a power play with 8:31 to go in the period. Johnson made it 4-1 at 31 seconds of the third, firing a wrist shot over Raanta’s shoulder.
BOLT FROM PAST
Arizona’s Rick Tocchet faced Tampa Bay for the first time as a head coach. He was 53-69-26 in 148 games behind the Lightning bench from 2008 to 2010.
“That was a long time ago,” Tocchet said.
Tocchet took over as Tampa Bay’s interim coach after Barry Melrose was fired in November 2008, got the full-time job and remained through the 2009-10 season. Tocchet spent the last three seasons as an assistant with Pittsburgh, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup the last two years.
Arizona acquired F Ryan Kujawinski from New Jersey on Thursday night for F Michael Latta. Kujawinski has a goal and an assist in five games this season for Binghamton in the American Hockey League. Latta has two goals and six assists in 20 games for Tucson in the AHL. ... The Coyotes assigned G Michael Leighton to Tucson. Arizona acquired Leighton and F Tye McGinn from the Lightning a month ago for G Louis Domingue. ... Tennessee Titans players attended the game. Coming off a loss to Arizona on Sunday, the NFL team is practicing at Arizona State in preparation of its game Sunday at San Francisco.