Kucherov’s OT goal lifts Lightning over Blue Jackets 2-1
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nikita Kucherov scored his second goal of the game 31 seconds into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning won their seventh straight, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday night.
Columbus’ Zach Weresnki turned the puck over behind his own net and Victor Hedman fed it out to Kucherov, who beat Elvis Merzlikins for his 27th. The Lightning won the first meeting of the teams since the Blue Jackets swept Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, giving Columbus its first-ever postseason series victory.
Former Blue Jackets backup Curtis McElhinney, starting ahead of Andrei Vasilevskiy on the first night of a back-to-back, had 31 saves to extend the Lightning’s point streak to nine games (8-0-1). They are 19-2-1 in the last 22 games.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored for Columbus. Merzlikins — who finished with 28 saves — and the Blue Jackets lost their second straight after a 10-game point streak helped move them up the table in the Metropolitan Division. Coupled with the New York Islanders’ win at Washington, Columbus dropped from third place into the first wild card slot.
Tampa Bay, chasing first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division, is 19-2-1 in the last 22 games.
The Lightning were missing prolific scorer Steven Stamkos because of an injury, and the Blue Jackets were without star defensemen Seth Jones (ankle injury) and forward Cam Atkinson (lower-body injury).
Kucherov started it for the Lightning at 2:29 of the first when he redirected Mikhail Sergachev’s shot from the point.
The Blue Jackets tied it in the second. Shortly after Columbus missed on a 2-on-1 rush, Bjorkstrand got a breakaway, deked McElhinney and backhanded a shot over his right pad 3:44 into the middle period.
NOTES: Columbus F Liam Foudy was recalled from London of the Ontario Hockey League on an emergency basis and made his NHL debut. … Merzlikins was named the NHL No. 1 Star for the week ending Feb. 9. … Lightning D Ryan McDonagh (lower body) missed his second game with injury and D Jan Rutta (lower body) missed his third. … Stamkos could return Tuesday night against Pittsburgh. … Sergachev’s assist was his 100th craeer point. … Markus Nutivaara replaced Jones on the Blue Jackets’ first defensive pairing alongside Zach Weresnki.
Lightning: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Blue Jackets: At Buffalo on Thursday.
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