Kucherov scores hat trick as Lightning beat Flyers
Kucherov scored on a one-timer from the right circle late in the first period. He added a nearly identical goal on a power play 2:24 into the second. He also had an empty-netter in the final minute of the game.
“He’s a pleasure to watch every night and he’s definitely worth the price of admission,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s a fabulous player. Unique. Elite. I don’t know what else to say about him because I’m running out of words.”
Kucherov moved into the NHL lead with 80 points, continuing his battle with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon for the top spot.
With 30 goals already, Kucherov is on pace to eclipse his career best of 41 set in 2018-19. Cooper said it’s because he’s shooting more than ever before. He is averaging a career-best 4.2 shots per game.
“When he shoots the puck it has eyes,” Cooper said. “The fact that he’s shooting more has really helped his game.”
Brayden Point and Brandon Hagel each had a goal and an assist as Tampa Bay won for the sixth time in seven games. Michael Eyssimont also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 stops. Maxwell Crozier earned his first NHL point with an assist on Point’s goal.
“Leadership has taken a big role in production here and the rest of us are just following their lead,” Eyssimont said. “When you have leadership like that, it makes our jobs a lot easier. (Kucherov) is incredible. He’s so much fun to watch. A lot of us are a lot better as players because of him.”
It was Drysdale’s first goal since he was acquired in a Jan. 8 trade with Anaheim for one of the Flyers’ top prospects, Cutter Gauthier.
Philadelphia coach John Tortorella felt the difference in the game was giving the Lightning too many chances on the power play. Tampa Bay was 2 for 3 with the man advantage.
“They’re not as deep as they used to be and they rely a lot on their power play,” Tortorella said. “We took two stupid penalties. ... They make you pay. It doesn’t take them much to score on the power play and that hurt us today.”
Samuel Ersson made 15 saves in his second consecutive start for Philadelphia. He likely will serve as the Flyers’ No. 1 goaltender for the foreseeable future after Carter Hart took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
“Sam’s played very well, I’m totally confident in Sam,” Tortorella said.
Drysdale’s power-play goal trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2 with 5:56 left in the second. But Kucherov fed Eyssimont in the slot with a slick pass for a power-play goal with 2:18 remaining in the period.
Lightning: Hosts Arizona on Thursday.
Flyers: Travel to Detroit on Thursday.
AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL