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Mar 22, 2024 1:21 am

Nikita Kucherov’s 4 assists lift Lightning over Sharks

Lightning, Sharks

NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov notched four assists and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the host San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Thursday for their fifth straight win, matching their season high.

In his second four-point outing in three days, Kucherov brought his point total to 122. The right winger stretched his assist streak to 12 games, breaking his own franchise history.

Brayden Point scored twice, including his team-leading 10th game-winner, and had a helper, while Anthony Duclair finished with a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. Nicholas Paul scored the Lightning’s other goal.

In his ninth straight start, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 21 saves as the Lightning (38-25-6, 82 points) moved their lead for the Eastern Conference’s top wild card to four points over the Detroit Red Wings.

In losing their sixth straight contest, the Sharks (16-46-7, 39 points) got a goal from William Eklund but fell to 1-13-2 in their past 16 games.

San Jose’s Mackenzie Blackwood made his first appearance in the crease since sustaining a groin injury on Feb. 27 against the New Jersey Devils and missing 11 games. He stopped 17 shots.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic played in his 1,283rd NHL game, placing him in a tie with Ken Daneyko for 23rd in all-time games skated in by a defenseman.

After winning the first meeting 6-0 on Oct. 26 in Tampa, the Lightning took advantage of a fluke goal just under five minutes into the season-series finale.

A pass by Victor Hedman bounced off the skate of the referee behind Blackwood’s net and right to Paul, who gloved it onto the ice and popped in a short shot for his 19th marker.

The Sharks evened it as Eklund finished a crisp cross-ice pass from Jacob MacDonald for the tying marker at 7:21 of the first period. It was Eklund’s 11th of the season.

Through a scoreless second period, the visitors, who beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-3 on Tuesday, managed only six shots on goal after having just four in the first frame.

With Tampa Bay starting the third on a power play, Point potted a rebound off Kucherov’s shot — his 13th man-advantage goal — at the 34-second mark for a 2-1 lead.

Duclair, acquired from the Sharks at the trade deadline, backhanded his 20th goal over Blackwood at 6:50 for a 3-1 lead. The winger has four tallies and three assists in five games since the March 7 trade.

To complete the three-goal period, Point found the net for the 40th time at 14:02.

–Field Level Media

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