Lightning finish December unbeaten with 2-1 win at Anaheim
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning are taking their incredible roll right into the new year.
The Lightning won their sixth straight game and finished December unbeaten in regulation after a 2-1 overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night. They went 12-0-1 in December and are the eighth NHL team in the last 10 years to finish a calendar month without a regulation loss after playing a minimum of eight games.
Tampa Bay heads into 2019 on a 14-0-1 run and with a league-high 64 points. The Lightning are 17-1-1 over their last 19 games.
“When you’re hot, you’re hot and it seems like everyone is getting hot at the same time,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You have to take advantage when times like this happen.”
Kucherov had a goal and an assist for his ninth multipoint game in December. Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are the first set of teammates to combine for 50 or more points in a calendar month since March 2001 when four pairs — three of which were combinations from Pittsburgh — accomplished the feat. Kucherov and Stamkos combined for 23 goals and 28 assists in December.
“To think, especially in this era where there is a lot of tight checking and low-scoring games, to accumulate those types of points, it’s what those guys do,” Cooper said.
Brayden Point scored 35 seconds into overtime when he took a pass from Kucherov near the blue line. Point skated into the zone, chipped the puck over the stick of Anaheim’s Brandon Montour and cut to the net, where he beat goalie John Gibson with a backhand.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots for his 100th NHL victory.
Nick Ritchie scored Anaheim’s lone goal and Gibson made 33 saves.
The Ducks have earned one point in each of their last two games but are winless in their past six. They go into January as the first wild card in the Western Conference but are just one point ahead of Dallas and three in front of Vancouver.
“We’re in a bit of a skid at the moment,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “We know what kind of group we have here. We need to get ready and get one again in January.”
Kucherov, who has a goal in four straight games, opened the scoring at 6:06 of the first when he finished off a tic-tac-toe passing setup from Erik Cernak and Point with a shot that beat Gibson on his glove side. It was his ninth goal in December.
Ritchie evened it with 2:52 remaining in the period when he got a pass from Ondrej Kase and beat Vasilevskiy from point-blank range. Ritchie, who had a career-best three assists in Saturday’s loss to Arizona, has a point in three straight games.
“With the long travel day and early start it looked like we were in quicksand a little bit. Anaheim was on us. We managed the puck and the game well from the second period on,” Cooper said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux hold the record for most points in a month by a pair of teammates with 59 (27 goals, 32 assists). The others to reach 50 were two other pairs of Penguins — Martin Straka and Jagr (55 points) plus Straka and Lemieux (52) — along with New Jersey’s Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias (50). ... Tampa Bay has picked up points in nine straight road games. ... Kase has seven goals and four assists in his last 10 games. ... The Lightning are 9-2-2 against the Ducks since the start of the 2011-12 season.
Lightning: At the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Ducks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.