Nikita Kucherov scored with 8.8 seconds left to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night and a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final in Edmonton, Alberta.
Kucherov beat Russian countryman Semyon Varlamov after a perfect pass from Ryan McDonagh, preventing the Lightning from going into another overtime game with a depleted forward group.
Leading scorer Brayden Point was injured late in the first period, and Tampa Bay also was without Alex Killorn much of the game after he was ejected for a hit from behind.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in Game 2. Varlamov made 19 saves. Tampa Bay is two wins from the Stanley Cup final, but Point’s injury after he fell awkwardly on his last shift of the first period is a major concern for a group already without captain Steven Stamkos.
Two nights after Point scored 1:14 in, Matt Martin did the honors 1:24 in to give the Islanders the lead. A broken play helped defenseman Nick Leddy get behind the net, and he fed Martin for his fifth goal of the playoffs on a rare play in which Andrei Vasilevskiy lost sight of the puck.
Six minutes in, Killorn hit New York’s Brock Nelson into the glass from behind and was ejected and given a 5-minute major penalty for boarding. After dressing just 11 forwards to keep seven defensemen in the lineup, Lightning were put in a tough spot by Killorn’s absence that was made even worse when Point got injured.
They killed the penalty and got to the second intermission with the score tied after Victor Hedman scored off a faceoff with 1:35 left in the first period.
There were no goals throughout the second and most of the third until Kucherov scored his sixth of the postseason.
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Mark Recchi played and lifted the Stanley Cup with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara and coached Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, so the Hockey Hall of Famer knows a thing or two about winning with stars.
Recchi on Wednesday joined new coach Lindy Ruff’s staff as an assistant, and he’s excited at the young talent they’re inheriting and hoping to turn New Jersey back into a playoff contender.
Recchi will be tasked with improving the Devils' power play, which ranked 21st in the NHL last season, and helping the progression of No. 1 picks Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes and others with limited pro experience.
“Communicating now is more important than ever: These kids want to understand, they want to talk to you about it, they want to understand how to get through it,” Recchi said on a conference call. “I think that’s the important thing that I’m going to be able to bring and I hope I can. I really want to help these young players and the New Jersey Devils, all the players, to build something special here.”
Recchi won the Cup three times during his 22-year playing career as a scoring winger and twice more as Penguins development coach. He and Pittsburgh’s other assistants didn’t have their contracts renewed after a first-round playoff exit, and the Penguins began filling those spots by hiring Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden following his firing.
It wasn’t immediately clear if or how Recchi’s hire affects Alain Nasreddine, who was elevated from his assistant role to interim coach with the Devils last season. General manager Tom Fitzgerald, who had his interim tag removed after replacing Ray Shero, said earlier this summer Nasreddine was still under contract and it would be up to Ruff to decide his role on staff.
Nasreddine, who played with Recchi in Pittsburgh, was a defenseman and could return to coaching the Devils' defense. Recchi, who overlapped with Fitzgerald for one season with the Penguins, brings something different.
“His work with the power play and managing personnel in Pittsburgh are skills that will benefit our group moving forward,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Mark’s leadership, communication abilities, patience and presence will be integral for the growth of our young core.”