Cooking with fire: Lightning remain red-hot, throttle visiting Avalanche
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos broke of a mini-slump on his way to the top of the NHL points list.
Stamkos had a goal and two assists, and the Tampa Bay Lightning became the first NHL team with 20 wins by defeating the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Thursday night.
Stamkos, who entered with one goal and two assists over his previous eight games, got his 12th goal early in the first. He also assisted on Vladislav Namestnikov’s tiebreaking goal at 8:09 of the second and Alex Killorn’s third of the season 4:57 into the third.
“It’s a long year,” said Stamkos, who leads the league with 41 points in 28 games. “It’s never going to go as smoothly as you’d like it to. Sometimes as you mature as a player, it’s not getting as frustrated when things are not going well. It’s nice to get back on the horse and just get a little confidence.”
Chris Kunitz and Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning, and backup Peter Budaj made 28 saves in his fifth game this season.
Colorado left wing Gabriel Landeskog, back in the lineup after serving a four-game suspension for cross-checking Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk in the head on Nov. 25, eluded Nikita Kucherov and scored on his first shift 1:21 into the game.
“Excited to be back out there and get an opportunity to get to the net,” Landeskog said.
Erik Johnson also scored for the Avalanche, who were coming off a 1-4 homestand. Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots.
“That’s four (losses) in a row now,” Landeskog said. “We have to find a way to get out of this.”
Stamkos tied it at 1 on a breakaway just 25 seconds after Landeskog’s goal. Killorn scored on a power play, and Point had a short-handed empty-netter late in the third.
“Stammer responded,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “He had a strong game.”
Varlamov made a number of big saves during the opening 20 minutes, including one on Point from the low slot when the red goal light was put on in error.
NOTES: Kucherov, who is second in the league with 40 points, was held off the scoresheet and finished at minus-two. … Namestnikov added two assists. … Colorado D Patrik Nemeth returned after missing 12 games with a lower-body injury. … Colorado RW Nail Yakupov, pointless in his six previous games, was scratched. … Lightning D Braydon Coburn (knee-to-knee hit) sat out his third consecutive game and is not practicing. … The teams conclude the two-game season series a week from Saturday in Colorado.
Avalanche: Play the second of four straight road games Saturday night at Florida.
Lightning: Complete a four-game homestand against Winnipeg on Saturday night.