Vasilevskiy has 24 saves, Kucherov has a goal and assist as Lightning beat Penguins 3-1

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)"
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)”

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots, NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Wednesday night.

Anthony Cirelli and Tanner Jeannot also scored for the Lightning, who have won four in a row after a four-game skid. Kucherov extended his point streak to 11 games, and has 44. points in 26 games.

“There’s a lot of great players in this league, the best in the world,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said of Kucherov. “But I think right now through 20-something games you’ve got to put him on the top of mountain. He’s been elite, that’s all I can say.”

In his sixth game since recovering from back surgery that delayed his season debut, Vasilevskiy stopped two scoring chances by Sidney Crosby during the same shift in the second period, including one from the low left circle while the center was on his knees.

The goalie was coming off a 25-save, 4-0 win over the Dallas on Monday night, but lost his shutout bid when Jake Guentzel scored with 53 second left in the third.

“We’re all happy he’s back,” Kucherov said. “He’s playing good.”

Tristan Jarry had 24 saves for the Penguins, who have lost eight of 11 (3-5-3). Pittsburgh went 0 for 4 on the power play to fall to 0 for 33 over the last 12 games.

The Penguins fell behind 2-0 last Thursday night before rebounding for a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay.

“They scored two goals (last week) and we start playing our game,” Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin said. “Tonight they scored three goals and we start to play our game. We need to control more of the game,”

Crosby had an assist to tie Doug Gilmour for 14th place all-time with 964.

Cirelli opened the scoring when Tampa Bay’s NHL-best home power play converted its first chance at 5:56 of the first. Kucherov set a team record of 11 consecutive games with an assist on the goal.

Kucherov, on power play, and Jeannot scored in the second period.

Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman had two assists on the power play as the Lightning went 2 for 4 with the man-advantage,

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang appeared to hurt his left shoulder and skated off gingerly after he went hard into the boards after attempting a check late in the first but returned before the period ended.


Penguins: At Florida on Friday night.

Lightning: At Nashville on Thursday night to start a five-game trip .