TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning stood pat at the NHL deadline, then went out and showed why they’re confident they have all the pieces necessary to win a championship.
Including the resiliency to overcome a third-period lapse that nearly cost them Monday night.
Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman scored in the shootout, and the NHL-leading Lightning shrugged off blowing a two-goal lead to beat the struggling Los Angeles Kings 4-3 for their ninth straight victory, matching the longest winning streak in franchise history.
“It’s nice to win. It always feels good,” Stamkos said. “But like we’ve said before, it’s about more than wins for our group. It’s about playing the right way heading down the stretch.”
J.T. Miller’s third-period goal forced overtime, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots for the Lightning, who improved the league’s best record to 48-11-4 and became the fourth team to reach 100 points in 63 games or less.
Alex Iafallo, Jonny Brodzinski and Austin Wagner scored in the third period, helping Los Angeles turn a two-goal deficit into a short-lived 3-2 lead that goalie Jack Campbell couldn’t protect. The Kings have lost eight straight, their longest skid since December 2007.
“That’s a tough team over there, they’re really good,” Campbell said. “I thought we came in and battled. I thought we competed. ... I’m not happy with the way it ended. I needed to make more saves. But that’s the way we needed to compete.”
Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli had first-period goals for the Lightning, who fell behind when Brodzinski — playing his first game of the season — and Wagner scored in a 36-second span. Miller countered less than a minute later to make it 3-all.
Meanwhile, Kucherov got his 71st assist on Tampa Bay’s first goal, giving him a league-leading and career-best 101 points.
“You have a two-goal lead at home, it needs to be automatic for our group. And it should be with where we are,” Stamkos said. “We are not pleased with that. But having said that, the demeanor on the bench was very positive. ... We found a way. Nine straight wins is something to be proud of, but we just want to continue to keep getting better.”
PIECES IN PLACE
The victory capped a day in which Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois explored the prospect of trying to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline before ultimately deciding there were no potential deals out there that made sense while also moving Tampa Bay closer to winning the Stanley Cup.
“I hope I sent them the same message they’ve been sending me — calm and confident,” BriseBois said about his players.
“We have a very good team. We have faith in the players we have in there. We have answers for whatever our opponents will throw at us,” the GM added. “There are a lot of good teams out there, and I think we’re one of them. I think we compared well to the best teams in the league before the deadline, and after the deadline I still feel that is the case.”
With their latest win, the Lightning joined the 1976-77 and 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens and 1971-72 Boston Bruins as the only teams to accumulate 100 points in the first 63 games of a season.
It’s the sixth 100-point season in club history, and Tampa Bay’s fourth in the past six seasons.
“You just look at the season we’ve had so far. We have a great group of guys. We love playing for each other and love playing for this organization,” Hedman said.
“We are very happy with the team we have. You know there is going to be talk and rumors leading up to this day, so it’s kind of nice that it’s over and everybody can look forward,” the defenseman said. “Nothing else is going to happen until the end of the season. All that distraction is out of the way and there is only one focus for us now.”
NOTES: Vasilevskiy has won seven consecutive starts and is 8-0-2 in February. ... Stamkos had two assists. With 381 career goals, he remains two shy of tying Vincent Lecavalier for the most in franchise history. ... The Kings dropped both games of the season series against Tampa Bay for the third straight year. ... Tampa Bay also won nine straight from Feb. 18-March 5, 2016.
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