Stamkos has 3 goals and an assist, Kucherov adds 3 assists as Lightning beat Blue Jackets 5-2

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Stamkos And Lightning Defeat Blue Jackets
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

AMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos had three goals and an assist, NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov picked up his fourth straight three-point game with three assists, and the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Tuesday night.

Anthony Cirelli and Stamkos scored 16 seconds apart to break an early third-period tie before Stamkos made it 5-2 on an empty-netter to complete his 13th hat trick.

Stamkos is the first Tampa Bay player to have three straight multigoal games and is the sixth NHL player 34 or older to do it.

“When you get in a groove like this, you certainly never want it to end,” Stamkos said. “It’s certainly a great feeling.”

Brayden Point had the other Tampa Bay goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves. Kucherov has 139 points, including 96 assists.

“It’s crazy,” Stamkos said of Kucherov’s season, “He’s special and having a magical season.”

The Lightning hold the top Eastern Conference wild card and trail Toronto by six points for third place in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have four games left.

Columbus got two goals from Kirill Marchenko, giving him five in the last six games. Jet Greaves stopped 28 shots in his sixth NHL game this season for the injury-impacted Blue Jackets, who are last in the Eastern Conference.

“We were right there at the start of the third period,” Columbus left wing Johnny Gaudreau said. “They scored two goals early in the third and you’re battling back the rest of the game.”

Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner remains away from the team after his wife Maggie delivered a stillborn baby on March 31. The couple announced the news in a statement released by the club on April 3.

“We’re just giving him the time that he needs,” Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent said. “And when he’s ready, we’ll be welcoming him back. But right now just respect his privacy.”

Columbus had eight players, including goalies Daniil Tarasov and Elvis Merzlikins, on its injury report. Left wing Alex Nylander was scratched due to a lower-body injury and right wing Carson Meyer left after two first-period shifts with an upper-body injury.

Stamkos extended his goal streak to six games and tied it at 2 as Tampa Bay’s league-leading power play converted its first chance with 5:43 to go in the second. The Lightning captain has 19 of his 39 goals on the man advantage.

Marchenko put Columbus up 2-1 on his team-best 23rd goal with a power-play goal 7:13 into the second. Gaudreau got his 500th assist, while Zach Werenski tied James Wisniewski’s single-season team record for assists by a defensemen with 44 on the goal.

Gaudreau joined Kucherov as the only players from the 2011 draft to reach 500 assists.

Point and Marchenko had first-period goals.

Tampa Bay defenseman Haydn Fleury sat out with an upper-body injury that occurred in a scary collision at center ice with referee Steve Kozari in Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Fleury is “doing all right now.”

UP NEXT

Blue Jackets: Play Thursday night at Florida.

Lightning: Host Ottawa on Thursday night.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl