TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Perhaps it was fitting that Nikita Kucherov finished off the Buffalo Sabres with the third shot of sudden death overtime in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 topping of the Sabres at Amalie Arena.
He had already put his stamp on the game in the second period when he put the Lightning on the board at 11:10 in the second period on a 2-on-1 rush that gave him his eighth goal in the last seven games.
That goal marked Kucherov’s 100th point of the season as he became the fourth Lightning player in history to accomplish the feat and has now scored 30 or more goals in 30 consecutive games.
“He was dominant out there tonight. The kid wants to win and wears his emotions on his sleeve,” said Tampa Bay coach John Cooper. “There’s not too much more you can say about him. He’s a remarkable player and he’s having an amazing season.”
Kucherov appeared to be playing at a higher speed than anyone else on the ice for most of the evening. He had eight shots on goal as he was able to get close to Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton on several occasions. To Hutton’s credit, he was able to make the needed stops on seven of Kucherov’s season-high eight opportunities.
The second period goal came off a ricochet from the heel of Buffalo center Jeff Skinner’s skate and then found the back of the back of the net. Tyler Johnson threw a solid cross ice pass that Kucherov collected for the score.
“I was a little confused on what the play was there, but it was nice to be able to kind of get it over to Kuch,” said Johnson of his 17th assist of the season. “I passed it to him and pretty much knew it was in.”
The Sabres played a physical defensive game all evening that could have had some impact on Tampa Bay’s snipers as Hutton, who came in with a 15-17-3, stopped 39 of 40 shots.
In the overtime, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen chopped down Kucherov at the net. Kucherov was obviously incensed as he got up and he and Ristolainen fought behind the goal as both players were given two minutes for roughing.
This came on the second 2-on-1 opportunity for the Lightning which Hutton once again turned away.
“We just tried battling,” noted Hutton. “They got a good hockey team and they’re a pretty skilled team, so we just tried to compete.”
The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 Sabres shots as he won his sixth straight start.
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead at 18:13 in the first period when defenseman Rasmus Dahlin scored his seventh goal of the season on a slap shot from just outside the left face-off circle. It deflected off Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonough and Vasilevskiy.
As the Sabres and Lightning entered the game, they were going in opposite directions. Buffalo had lost four out of five as the Sabres collected a point and are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five back of Columbus for eighth place.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay continues what has become a magical season at 47-11-4 as the Lightning continue to set the pace in the entire NHL and is 9-0-3 in the last 12 outings.
Ken Cross is a sports contributor for the Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lightning Sign D Mikhail Sergachev, F Anthony Cirelli and D Erik Cernak to Eight-Year Contract Extensions
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak each to an eight-year contract extension, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced today.
Sergachev, 24, has skated in 362 career regular season games, 358 of them with the Lightning, notching 36 goals and 174 points. He ranks fifth all-time in Tampa Bay franchise history among defensemen for goals and scoring and fourth for assists (138). The former ninth overall pick (of Montreal) in the 2016 NHL Draft has also played in 92 postseason games and posted eight goals and 30 points. He ranks second in Lightning history among defensemen for playoff games, goals, assists (22) and scoring. Sergachev’s eight-year contract is worth an AAV of $8.5 million.
Cirelli, 24, has skated in 294 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, recording 66 goals and 159 points. During the 2021-22 season, Cirelli posted 17-26—43 points in 76 games played, one point shy of his career high 16-28—44 pts. from the 2019-20 season. He led Tampa Bay forwards for blocked shots (67), ranked sixth in the NHL for penalties drawn (42) and finished fifth in Selke Trophy voting in 2021-22. In postseason play, Cirelli has notched 14 goals and 34 points in 92 games, ranking 11th all-time in Lightning playoff history for scoring. Cirelli’s eight-year contract is worth an AAV of $6.25 million.
Cernak, 25, has skated in 226 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, posting 16 goals, 59 points and a plus-51 rating. During the 2021-22 regular season, the Kosice, Slovakia native notched a goal and 13 points and led the Lightning for hits (165) in 55 games. Cernak has played in 73 career postseason games, recording two goals and 19 points. He netted the Stanley Cup-opening goal in Game 1 of the 2021 Cup Final versus Montreal, becoming the first Tampa Bay player to net his first career playoff goal in a Stanley Cup Final. A second round selection of the Los Angeles Kings (43rd overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Cernak was traded to the Lightning on February 26, 2017. Cernak’s eight-year contract is worth an AAV of $5.2 million.
NHL: Lightning Re-Sign Forward Simon Ryfors to a One-Year, Two-Way Contract
TAMPA BAY –The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Simon Ryfors to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced.
Ryfors, 24, played in 72 games during the regular season for the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate, posting 11 goals and 35 points, ranking tied for seventh on the Crunch for scoring. He also skated in five Calder Cup Playoff games with the Crunch and notched a goal, assist and a plus-four rating.
The Stockholm, Sweden native originally signed with the Lightning organization on May 12, 2021. Prior to that, he skated seven seasons with Rogle BK of the SHL, tallying 41 goals and 93 points to go along with 165 penalty minutes in 250 games. He set career bests in the SHL in 2020-21 for goals (25), assists (20) and points (45).
Lightning Acquire F Brandon Hagel, Two 4th Round Picks from Chicago
TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: Tampa Bay Lightning // The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired forward Brandon Hagel, Chicago’s fourth-round selection in 2022 and fourth-round pick in 2024 from the Blackhawks in exchange for forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, Tampa’s first-round selection in 2023 and first-round selection in 2024, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced today. Both first-round picks the Lightning are sending to Chicago are top 10 protected.
Hagel, 23, has played in 55 games so far this season for Chicago, recording 21 goals and 37 points. Hagel ranks second on the Blackhawks for goals and game-winning goals (3) and fourth for scoring and power-play goals (4). In 108 games with Chicago over three seasons, Hagel has posted 30 goals and 61 points. He made his NHL debut March 11, 2020 versus San Jose, the only game he played during the 2019-20 season. Hagel is under contract through the 2023-2024 season with a salary cap number of $1,500,000.
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