BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Nikita Kucherov scored a hat trick, Steven Stamokos had a goal and two assists, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 Tuesday night.
Anthony Cirelli had a goal and an assist, Ondrej Palat extended his scoring streak to four games, and the Lightning got three assists from Alex Killorn and two from Victor Hedman. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 17 saves for his 20th win of the season.
Tampa Bay (24-9-5) has won three of four following a three-game skid to keep pace with the Florida Panthers atop the NHL standings with 53 points.
Vinnie Hinostroza scored for the Sabres, who have lost seven in a row at home and dropped to 3-13-4 over their past 20 games.
Buffalo goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen left the game with a lower-body injury after he gave up two goals on nine shots in the first period. Malcolm Subban made 23 saves on 27 shots.
Kucherov scored for the first time in three games after he missed 32 with a lower-body injury. His last goal came in the second game of the season Oct. 14.
Stamkos set up Kucherov’s first tally on a power play 27 seconds into the period. Kucherov then skated out of the penalty box to snap a one-timer that made it 4-0 midway through the second.
Kucherov notched his hat trick and scored his fourth of the season on a slap shot from the point with 4:03 remaining.
Killorn’s pass from behind the net led to Stamkos’ team-leading 17th goal with 5:56 remaining in the second.
Palat put the Lightning in the lead 2:16 into the game when he settled a bouncing puck and shot from the high slot over Luukkonen’s glove. Palat’s fifth goal in five games and 11th since Dec. 1 gave him 15 for the season.
Cirelli became the sixth Lightning player with 10 goals this season when he scored on the rush at 10:45 of the first.
Hinostroza ended Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid at 5:31 of the third.
Lightning: D Ryan McDonagh (lower body) was scratched for a second contest after being listed as a game-time decision. … D Zach Bogosian (lower body) returned from a five-game absence and played against his former team in Buffalo for the first time since being placed on unconditional waivers on Feb. 21, 2020. … F Ross Colton returned to the lineup after clearing COVID-19 protocol. … F Remi Elie was reassigned to the minors.
Sabres: F Jack Quinn, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 draft, made his NHL debut after being called up from the taxi squad. … Buffalo’s leading scorer F Tage Thompson missed his first game after being placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. … F Alex Tuch and F Kyle Okposo skated Tuesday for the first time since being placed on the protocol list last week.
CHANGE OF PLANS
The Lightning altered their travel itinerary and practiced in Buffalo on Monday after their game at New Jersey was postponed due to virus-related issues with the Devils.
Lightning: Host Vancouver Canucks on Thursday to open two-game homestand.
Sabres: Begin two-game road trip at Nashville Predators on Thursday.