DENVER (AP) — Nikita Kucherov took a puck in the face to keep it from leaving the zone. Steven Stamkos faked a shot to give it right back to an open Kucherov.
Two heads-up plays for the one and only goal.
Kucherov scored on a power play with 13:36 remaining, Andrei Vasilevskiy outperformed Semyon Varlamov in a goaltender showdown and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 on Wednesday night.
“That was a good one,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It was just fun to be a part of and have the seat that I do have to watch it.”
This game featured two high-scoring, speedy teams. It had plenty of big-time saves by two shifty goaltenders.
It certainly didn’t lack entertainment.
“Usually it’s pretty boring when no one scores,” Stamkos said. “But both goaltenders played well. Both teams have some pretty dynamic offensive players that can create something.”
On the winning goal, Kucherov saved the puck from leaving the offensive end as it bounced off his noggin. He then passed it over to Stamkos, who instantly drew a crowd. Instead of forcing a shot, Stamkos deked a defenseman and then delivered it cross-ice to Kucherov, who lined it in for his 150th career goal.
“Anytime I can get it to him in that area, I’m going to give it to him every time,” Stamkos said. “He does what he does best.”
Vasilevskiy was masterful in neutralizing the high-flying Avalanche, who returned home after a 3-0-1 trip. The Lightning goaltender turned back 23 shots for his 13th NHL shutout.
“He was seeing everything and seeing his rebounds,” Cooper said. “He was great.”
The only time the Avalanche were able to get one by him, the goal didn’t count. Gabriel Landeskog snapped in a pass from Nathan MacKinnon during a 2-on-1 break in the first period, but as they celebrated Tampa Bay challenged the play. The officials disallowed the goal after ruling Tyson Jost was offside. Jost was away from the play.
“That’s not where the game was won or lost,” Landeskog said. “It would’ve been nice with a first-period goal, but we moved on and kept playing. We had other chances to score.”
Vasilevskiy and Varlamov matched each other save for stellar save most of the contest. Varlamov blinked first when he allowed Kucherov’s goal with defenseman Tyson Barrie serving a hooking penalty.
The Avalanche pulled Varlamov with about 1:30 remaining, but couldn’t score the equalizer. Varlamov finished with 23 saves.
“I like a lot of the things that we did,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “That’s one of the best teams in the league, no doubt. I think our guys should keep their chins up.”
MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had nine-game point streaks halted. Their streaks matched the longest to start a season since the team relocated to town in 1995-96.
The Lightning were coming off a 6-3 win over Chicago in which they set a new franchise record with 55 shots. Against Colorado, the Lightning had 24 shots.
Kucherov had a wide open net in the closing seconds of the second period with Varlamov out of position. The Lightning right winger sent a liner toward a vacant part of the net, but the puck hit off a stick and caromed wide.
He got some redemption.
“Felt good,” Kucherov said.
At the morning skate, Landeskog deflected the credit for receiving the league’s first star of the week. He had six goals during the stretch, including a hat trick.
“If the team wasn’t winning, I wouldn’t get that recognition,” Landeskog said. “It’s fun. But at the same time it’s a young season, a lot of hockey left. Just enjoy it while we can.”
NOTES: Lightning D Slater Koekkoek was a scratch. Cooper hopes to get him in a game during the trip. … Avalanche F J.T. Compher (concussion-like symptoms) was scheduled to see the doctor again Wednesday night. “I think he’s feeling better. But he has his good days and bad days,” Bednar said. … F Conor Timmins (concussion-like symptoms) is “feeling a little bit better,” Bednar said.
Lightning: Continue their five-game road swing with stop No. 4 in Vegas on Friday night.
Avalanche: Welcome former Avalanche Matt Duchene and the Ottawa Senators to town on Friday.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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