It was a question of when, and certainly not if, the Lightning would clinch a playoff berth. That question was answered Friday night when the Penguins defeated the ninth-place Islanders.

Connor McDavid, Oilers Visit Lightning; Kucherov’s Streak

It was the Lightning, however, that came away with a 5-3 win thanks in part to Corey Perry’s 400th career NHL goal.
Nikita Kucherov, Credit: Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. – In Edmonton’s most recent visit to Amalie Arena, in February of last season, Connor McDavid scored twice.

It was the Lightning, however, that came away with a 5-3 win thanks in part to Corey Perry’s 400th career NHL goal.

For McDavid, who would lead the league in scoring with 123 points, those were his first two points in four visits to Amalie. In three previous games – he missed Edmonton’s trip to Tampa in February 2020 — he was held off the scoresheet.

The Hart Trophy winner as league MVP during the virus-abbreviated 2020-21 season, who will play his 500th NHL game Monday night in Washington, might very well be salivating when looking at video of the Lightning’s recent games.

Sure, the Bolts are in the midst of a five-game (4-0-1) points streak that includes picking up five of a possible six points on the current four-game homestand that concludes against Edmonton. While they are on a nice little roll, their play remains rather uneven, if not downright careless at times.

Goaltender Brian Elliott was left to clean up the mess more times than he should have been asked in Saturday evening’s 5-3 win over Buffalo. Loose play resulted in too many prime chances in the slot.

That’s not to say there were not some good things that developed. In fact, there was much for coach Jon Cooper to be pleased with. Still, some cleansing in the defensive zone is needed especially when the likes of McDavid, who scored four goals in a game against the visiting Lightning in 2017-18, are circling like sharks in the attacking zone.

“The problem was, when we gave up a chance, it was a 10-beller,” said Cooper, of Saturday’s game. “That’s something we need to tidy up. There were just too many grade-A chances in the slot.”

First goal: Nick Perbix scored his first NHL goal against the Sabres on Saturday night. Not only was it his first goal, but the rookie defenseman fired home a feed from Nikita Kucherov at 15:05 of third period to snap a three-all tie for the game-winner.

The 24-year-old Minneapolis native, who played collegiately about an hour away from home at St. Cloud State, has been paired with Mikhail Sergachev.

“The guys in here, and especially Sergey, I have been fortunate to play with him every game,” said Perbix, when asked about the transition to the NHL. “He’s made it so much easier to talk on the bench and let me know before faceoffs what to do. That has definitely helped.”

Kucherov’s streak: An empty-net goal capped a four-point night for Kucherov against Buffalo. He assisted on three of the Lightning’s first four goals in the 5-3 win. He enters Tuesday’s game having recorded at least one point in 10 straight and is averaging nearly two points per game (6-13-19) in that stretch. His career-high points streak was 19, set late last season. Kucherov’s 20 points this season are third in the league behind the Edmonton duo of McDavid (25) and Leon Draisaitl (23).

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