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game recap

Lightning defeat Sabres in shootout

Nikita Kucherov scores unique goal in tiebreaker, Andrei Vasilevskiy makes 31 saves in win

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov scored in the shootout, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made saves on the two shooters he faced in the tiebreaker to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Saturday.

Vasilevskiy made 31 saves through overtime, and then stopped Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel in the shootout.

Kucherov ended the game in the bottom of the second round with a highlight-reel goal on which he never shot the puck.

 

WATCH: All Lightning vs. Sabres highlights

 

"I don't think any of us have seen him do that before; he brought the schoolyard to the big stage," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's a schoolyard move, for sure, but the bottom line is it crossed the goal line, and that's what we needed. A special player can do special things. But I tell you, you better score on that if you're going to do it. And he did."

Tampa Bay (30-26-8), which has won three of its past four games, is three points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Video: TBL@BUF: Point snipes one past Lehner in the shootout

The Sabres (27-26-12) have lost five of their past six games (1-3-2). They trail the Islanders by five points.

Lightning center Tyler Johnson scored at 2:37 of the second period to tie it 1-1. After Johnson won a faceoff in the Sabres zone, Kucherov passed to the left point for defenseman Victor Hedman, who found Johnson to the right of the net for a redirection past goalie Robin Lehner.

"The setup itself is a set play, and we have quite a few different options we can run after it, and that's just one of them," Johnson said. "[Hedman] made a great play to find me there, and I didn't have to do too much."

Kucherov has seven goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak. Hedman has two goals and five assists during a five-game point streak.

Ryan O'Reilly gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead by scoring a power-play goal with 12 seconds left in the first period. Rasmus Ristolainen passed to O'Reilly in the right circle for a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy for his 15th goal.

Eichel got an assist on the goal to extend his point streak to nine games (two goals, 10 assists).

Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury. He was injured in a collision behind the Buffalo net at 14:23 and was slow to get up before he headed to the bench. Coach Dan Bylsma did not have an update on him after the game.

Video: TBL@BUF: O'Reilly blasts a PPG to open the scoring

 

Goal of the game

Hedman's vision to find Johnson cutting backdoor helped Tampa Bay tie the game.

Video: TBL@BUF: Johnson tips Hedman's feed past Lehner

 

Save of the game

Vasilevskiy robbed Evander Kane with his left pad on a shot from the slot at 11:07 of the third period to keep the game tied.

Video: TBL@BUF: Vasilevskiy stones Kane off the draw

 

Highlight of the game

Kucherov went wide down the right side before faking a deke just below the hash marks while letting the puck slide through Lehner's five-hole.

Video: TBL@BUF: Kucherov ends shootout with nifty goal

 

Unsung performance of the game

Defenseman Jason Garrison led the Lightning in total ice time (25:02) and shorthanded ice time (3:33), helping to kill a Sabres power play that started with 45 seconds left in the third period and carried into overtime.

 

They said it

"It definitely was on purpose. He does it in practice all the time. I think a lot of people mess around doing that, but you would never think you would do that in an NHL game. But that's [Nikita Kucherov]. That's going to be a goal that's going to be on YouTube forever, so I can't wait to see it." -- Lightning forward Tyler Johnson on Kucherov's shootout goal

 

"Well, these guys ... it was funny, I don't know if you catch it on tape, but [Kucherov] went down and he swung by [goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy] and said something to him, and [Vasilevskiy] nodded at the end. So I asked him after what was said, and he said he was going to pull that move because I guess he uses it on [Vasilevskiy] all the time. And he did it. But ... there are guys that can take the game to the next level and be that creative and still continue to have their work ethic, and that's what he does and that's why this is such a great game because you never know when you are going to see something new and exciting. And we saw that tonight." -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper

 

"[Kucherov] did it on purpose. What can I say? Bad by me, pretty sick by him. It's not a secret I'm not the best at shootouts. I'm working on it." -- Sabres goalie Robin Lehner

 

Need to know

Hedman set an NHL career high with his 43rd assist. He had 42 in 2013-14. … Lehner is 0-for-8 in the shootout this season. … Eichel's nine-game point streak is the longest by a Sabres player since Tim Connolly had points in 16 straight games from Dec. 23, 2009, through Jan. 25, 2010.

 

What's next

Lightning: Host the New York Rangers on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, SUN, MSG+, NHL.TV)

Sabres: At the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NHLN, ROOT, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Kucherov seals Bolts' 2-1 win with slick SO goal

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