Hedman, Kucherov propel Lightning past Kings 6-4
LOS ANGELES - Victor Hedman and the Tampa Bay Lightning found a novel way to break up the monotony that can be the middle of the NHL regular season.
Hedman had two goals and an assist in Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings despite being one of only four Tampa Bay defensemen who dressed after three were scratched due to injuries.
The 2018 Norris Trophy winner, who has been a finalist for the NHL’s top defenseman award five straight seasons, said he had trouble napping before the game because it was going to be challenging.
"It was something new. You knew you were going to be out there every other shift," Hedman said. "In an 82-game season, you need those challenges. It was fun to see what you could do with only four guys.
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"You can look at it and feel sorry for yourself or look at it as an opportunity. We tried to keep it as simple as possible and got a big two points."
Hedman saw 32:37 of ice time, his most in a regular-season game that has not gone to overtime. He also extended his point streak to four games (one goal, five assists) as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions pushed their winning streak to four.
"He just thrives when he is asked to do more. He gave a phenomenal performance to help the win," fellow defenseman Ryan McDonagh said.
Hedman scored his first goal since Dec. 16 at 13:17 of the first period when he retrieved an errant pass in the Kings zone and beat Cal Petersen glove side on a breakaway.
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Hedman then scored the go-ahead goal at 10:43 of the third when he took Nikita Kucherov’s pass and scored on a snap shot to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead. It was the ninth multigoal game of Hedman’s career, and one of three third-period goals by Tampa Bay that put the game away.
"I think he’s one of the top five players in the National Hockey League, not just tonight but every night I turn on the TV," Kings coach Todd McClellan said. "Six-foot-six and play like that, and he had a huge impact on the game. Played the most minutes of anybody and played the best out of everybody."
Kucherov extended his scoring tear with a power-play goal in the second period along with an assist. The right wing, who missed 32 games with a lower-body injury that required surgery, has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in six games since returning to the lineup.
Mathieu Joseph and Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist apiece for the Lightning, who have a 10-game winning streak over the Kings. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots.
"The big thing for us is we couldn’t turn it over. It was pivotal in the second period to get pucks deep so we could get our defensemen off," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Blake Lizotte, Alex Iafallo, Arthur Kaliyev and Phillip Danault scored for the Kings, who have dropped two straight after a four-game winning streak. Petersen made 19 saves.
"That’s kind of what we expected was gonna happen, a kind of back-and-forth kind of game," Iafallo said. "But when that happens, you’ve just got to kind of pack it in and take your chances and get better chances. But we’ll have to regroup and we’ll be fine."
Lizotte tied it 1-all at 8:52 of the second when he got the puck from Brayden Point in the corner, skated in and went top shelf on Vasilevskiy.
SPECIAL TEAMS FLURRY
Each team had a short-handed and power-play goal in a span of less than 4 1/2 minutes during the second period.
Iafallo got his first career short-handed goal at 11:44 when he took advantage of a turnover near Tampa Bay’s net. The Lightning tied it, though, at 13:03 on Kucherov’s one-timer from the right circle.
Tampa Bay took a 3-2 lead with a short-handed goal of its own when Bellemare took Joseph’s pass, deked to his backhand and got Petersen out of position at 14:40. Kaliyev evened it with the man advantage at 16:06 when his wrist shot deflected off Hedman’s stick and in.
It was the first time since Boston faced St. Louis in December 2008 that both teams had a power-play goal and a short-handed goal in the same period.
Los Angeles is tied for fourth in the NHL with five short-handed goals.
Lightning: Remain in Southern California to face Anaheim on Friday night.
Kings: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night before playing the next eight scheduled games on the road.