Fourth Line Shines In Tampa Bay’s 5-2 Win Over Winnipeg

Adam Erne beat Connor Hellebuyck for his first goal since December 29. The goal gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead in what would be a 5-2 win over Winnipeg. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA – Tuesday night was one to keep the Lightning record book handy during a 5-2 win over Winnipeg at Amalie Arena.

Nikita Kucherov had a pair of assists to give him 108 points and tie Vincent Lecavalier for the team’s single-season record.

Steven Stamkos’ goal at 14:26 of the second period, what proved to be the game-winner, was the 382nd of his career putting him one behind Lecavalier for the all-time franchise lead.

Kucherov, who has 31 goals and a league-high 77 assists, recorded his 108th point by getting the primary assist on Brayden Point’s powerplay goal midway through the third period that gave Tampa Bay a 5-1 lead.

“Trying to work on may game everyday and see what happens,” said Kucherov on equaling the record. “Obviously it’s good. I like it.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper liked the fact 11 players figured in the scoring. While the big guns had a presence, Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne and Cedric Paquette all scored while Mathieu Joseph had a pair of assists.

“There were a lot of guys that got going in this game tonight,” he said. “I know it’s obviously not the playoffs right now, but confidence and depth scoring can do nothing but help you come the spring.”

The two assists gave Joseph his first multi-point game since December 4 against Detroit.

“Our line went on the forecheck right away and that definitely set a tone for the line,” said Joseph, who was on the right side on a fourth line centered by Paquette with Erne on the left. “We were also able to bury a couple of chances and I thought that we had other chances we could have scored on. So I think the whole line felt good, but I thought everybody played really well tonight.”

The win stretched Tampa Bay’s win streak at Amalie Arena to eight games and point streak 11 games (9-0-2). The Lightning are 12-1-0 overall in their last 13 matches.

The Lightning spent most of the opening period buzzing around the Winnipeg zone and held a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal with many high-end opportunities. However, they came away tied at one.

Tampa Bay took the lead for good at 8:58 of the middle period when Ryan McDonagh blocked Jack Roslovic’s shot. Anthony Cirelli picked up the carom and his outlet pass to Joseph triggered a two-on-one. Joseph, skating down the left wing, fed a pass across to Erne, who beat Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

The goal was Erne’s seventh of the season and his first since scoring twice against Montreal on December 29, a stretch of 26 games without putting one home.

“I think it’s going to be really important come playoff time to get production from all four lines,” said Erne. “You can’t rely on the top guys all the time. It’s been a while (since I scored) and you want to put pucks in the back of the net. I have been playing well and it was good to put one in.”

Stamkos’ goal allowed the Lightning to take a 3-1 after two periods. Fifteen seconds before he scored, Kucherov ripped a one-timer from the right circle that caught Hellebuyck square in the mask. The goaltender was down for a couple of minutes before heading to the dressing room under his own power and bleeding from the forehead.

Laurent Brossoit replaced Hellebuyck, who returned a little more than three minutes later, and was welcomed to the game in the form of a Stamkos canon from the left circle.

It looked like Stamkos might equal Lecavalier’s mark midway through the third period. With Tampa Bay on the powerplay in which Point would eventually score, the Lightning captain was alone in front of Hellebuyck, who made a highlight-reel glove save.

Paquette’s 10th of the season at 4:20 of the third period made it 4-1 and Point’s goal at 9:50 gave Tampa Bay at four-goal cushion. The goal was Point’s league-best 19th on the powerplay.

“It was a pretty solid game for us,” said Cooper, whose Lightning went up against a Winnipeg team missing defensemen Dustin Byfuglien and John Morrissey. “They were a little shorthanded and I thought we jumped on them early. We dictated a lot of play in the game for the most part until the very end.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves and won his 10th straight game to come within one of Louie Domingue’s Lightning record set earlier this season. Vasilevskiy’s victory enabled Tampa Bay to become the first team in NHL history to have two goalies with win streaks of at least 10 games.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer, reporter and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Comcast, NBC and The Topps Company. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a USF grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.