LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning got off to a strong start last season, only to lose momentum after Christmas.
They aren’t about to let that happen again, as the Los Angeles Kings found out.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and three assists as the Lightning kept steamrolling along, beating the Kings 6-2 on Thursday night for their seventh straight victory.
“This group has been together for quite a while, so we know what we’re capable of,” Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan said. “Make sure we continue to rise and continue to play well, not have that dip we had last year, and so far out of the break we’ve done that.”
The NHL-leading Lightning have earned at least one point in 16 consecutive games — the longest streak in the league this season. They are 15-0-1 during the run.
“We’re on a good stretch, obviously, and we’re having fun with it,” Callahan said. “We’re coming to the rink and we’re ready to work is the biggest thing. Tonight was no different.”
Steven Stamkos added a goal and two assists, and Brayden Point had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves for his sixth consecutive win.
Austin Wagner and Drew Doughty scored for the Kings, who have lost three of four. Jonathan Quick stopped 27 shots.
The Lightning jumped out in front 3-0 in the first period, with Kucherov getting his 400th NHL point by scoring during a 5-on-3 power play at 6:28.
“He’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice, and you give our team a 5-on-3 there at the beginning, you kind of expect Kucher and these guys to put it in the back of the net,” Mathieu Joseph said.
Kucherov has eight goals and 19 assists during a 12-game point streak. He has scored in five straight games and has seven consecutive multipoint games, getting at least four points in three of his past five.
“When you play a team like that, you know you have to play well or they can make you look bad in your own rink, so our guys were ready ’cause they knew that could happen,” Kings coach Willie Desjardins said.
Ryan McDonagh pushed it to 4-0 just 25 seconds into the second period before Wagner scored at 7:55 for the Kings. Stamkos scored a power-play goal at 17:05.
Joseph extended the lead to 6-1 at 10:04 of the third period as the Lightning scored at least six goals for the fourth time in five games.
As dominant as the offense was, Callahan was just as pleased with the defensive effort.
Tampa Bay has allowed three goals over the past two games after conceding a total of 10 in the previous two outings, though Doughty scored a second goal for Los Angeles on the power play at 17:36.
“The quicker you nip it and the quicker you realize areas that you need to improve in even when you’re winning, the better off you are as a team and we’re doing that,” Callahan said.
NOTES: Kucherov is the first player from the 2011 draft to reach the 400-point milestone. … Point has three goals and 10 assists during an eight-game point streak. … Lightning D Victor Hedman had an assist for the fifth straight game. … Kings forward Dustin Brown played in his 1,077th career game, tying Luc Robitaille for second-most in Kings history.
Lightning: Conclude their three-game California road trip at San Jose on Saturday.
Kings: Host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday