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Kucherov hat trick leads Lightning past Coyotes

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- As hats littered the ice at Amalie Arena after Nikita Kucherov's third goal Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward had one thought.

"It was amazing," Kucherov said. "It was my first time to see that, to see the fans throw their hats on the ice. It was good to score the goals because my teammates put me in a good position tonight."

Kucherov's first career hat trick helped lift the Lightning to a 7-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Brian Boyle had two goals, Tyler Johnson had a career-high four assists, and Matthew Carle and Valtteri Filppula each scored once for the Lightning (6-3-1), who opened their four-game homestand on a positive note following a 3-2-0 road trip.

But it was Kucherov who received most of the attention Tuesday.

"His skill set is pretty impressive," Boyle said. "I'm happy for him; he's been going into the dirty areas and doing the things that don't always show up on a highlight reel over the last couple of games. He was rewarded in Minnesota on Saturday after we were out of it and he kept it going tonight."

The Lightning lost to the Minnesota Wild 7-2 on Saturday. They clearly wanted to rebound with a big performance on home ice.

"We try not to dwell on one game," Boyle said. "We aren't going to dwell on this game that much. We'll enjoy this tonight and get back to work tomorrow."

Kucherov gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 7:46 of the first period when he redirected a long slap shot from defenseman Radko Gudas between Coyotes goalie Mike Smith's pads.

The 21-year-old, who was drafted by Tampa Bay in the second round (No. 58) in 2011, lifted a backhand shot over a sprawling Smith to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead 3:20 into the second period.

"I thought the first period set the tone tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Every line was flying. We were a tired group coming off the road trip, but we got those two days off. We had a chance to refocus and we were energized by the home crowd."

Kucherov completed the hat trick when he took a centering pass from Johnson and sent a one-timer past Smith for a 5-2 Lightning lead at 8:23 of the third period. Eric Brewer had the second assist on the goal, which was Kucherov's fourth of the season.

"When [Kucherov] is hot and on his game like he was tonight he can score in bunches," Cooper said. "Watching him with Johnson and [Ondrej] Palat was a lot of fun. They all have the ability to play the game fast and they showed that tonight."

Johnson has 11 assists in 10 games; he has scored a point in each the past seven games.

"You have to ride the wave sometimes because we're creating a lot of opportunities but a couple of them are pretty lucky," Johnson said. "And I'm good with that because sometimes you need luck. I'm not going to give any of them back."

Arizona (3-4-1) pulled within two goals twice in the second period. Shane Doan scored his first goal of the season when he sent a rebound past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop following a point shot by Michael Stone to close the gap to 3-1 with 5:53 left in the second period.

"We gave up way too many goals," Doan said. "This is the third game we've done that. As a professional hockey player, it's embarrassing."

After Boyle's first goal gave the Lightning a 4-1 lead, Martin Erat made it 4-2 with 1:08 left in the second when his wraparound shot deflected off Bishop's skate into the back of the net.

B.J. Crombeen scored a third-period goal for the Coyotes. Smith made 27 saves before he was pulled in the third period; backup Devan Dubnyk surrendered Carle's goal on one of the two shots he faced in 10:34.

"There is no excuses. We didn't play well; it's as simple as that," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's not on Mike, it's the whole group."

Bishop made 22 saves for the Lightning, who will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Coyotes will visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

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