BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning had seen Nikita Kucherov try the move in practice before, but never in an NHL game.
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They expect to see it several times over on replay now.
Kucherov’s slick stickhandling led the Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout Saturday night. He scored the deciding goal in the second round of the shootout when he slid the puck between the pads of Buffalo’s Robin Lehner while faking a move from left to right in front of the crease.
“That’s going to be a goal that’s going to be on YouTube forever, so I can’t wait to see it,” Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. “He does it in practice all the time. I think a lot of people mess around doing that, but you would never think you would do that in an NHL game.”.
Despite seeing the move before, Kucherov’s teammates were still stunned.
“Wow!!” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos wrote on Twitter . “He did that twice this week in practice.”.
Added Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper: “He brought the schoolyard to the big state. A special player can do special things. But I’ll tell ya, you better score on that. And he did.”.
Brayden Point also beat Lehner with a wrister over the goaltender’s glove in the shootout, and Tyler Johnson had the tying goal for the Lightning in regulation.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 31 saves and stopped Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in the skills competition.
Tampa Bay bounced back on the second night of a back-to-back after losing 5-2 in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and Lehner made 31 saves for Buffalo, which has lost four of five — and all three meetings with Tampa Bay this season.
The Sabres were without leading scorer Kyle Okposo. The left wing injured his ribs in Thursday’s win over Arizona and will be out at least a week, coach Dan Bylsma said. Okposo has 19 goals and 24 assists in his first season with Buffalo.
The Sabres (27-26-12) could have moved past the Lightning (30-26-8) for sixth place in the Atlantic Division standings with a regulation win.
Lehner continued his struggles in shootouts. He has yet to save a shot in eight opportunities this season. Buffalo is 1-6 in games that have been decided by the skills competition.
“It’s no secret I’m not the best at shootouts,” Lehner said. “I’m working on it. It’s different. It’s not hockey.”.
Bylsma said Lehner was “outstanding” before the shootout.
“He got us the point in the game,” Bylsma said. “He’s a bit of a riddle, mystery about him in a shootout.”.
Both teams had 4-on-3 power plays during overtime. Buffalo played the first 1:16 with a man-advantage after Anton Stralman’s interference penalty in the final minute of regulation. Marcus Foligno received a penalty after knocking Johnson’s stick out of his hands at 1:47.
“Last couple of overtimes we’ve lost is because we haven’t been able to kill off a 4-on-3,” Cooper said. “For us to get through that was huge. . We kind of built momentum off that.”.
O’Reilly scored on a power play to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead with 11 seconds left in the third period. Rasmus Ristolainen faked a shot from the point and fed O’Reilly for a one-timer from the right circle just 9 seconds after Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov was penalized for hooking.
Johnson got the tying goal for Tampa Bay 2:37 into the second period. Victor Hedman sent a long pass to the right slot, where Johnson tapped the puck past Lehner for his 19th of the season.
NOTES: Eichel had an assist on O’Reilly’s goal, extending his point streak to nine games. … Kucherov has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) on a six-game streak, and Hedman has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his last nine games. … Sabres D Dmitry Kulikov left in the first period with an upper body injury and did not return. Bylsma did not have an update on Kulikov’s condition after the game. … The Lightning had seven active defensemen with D Luke Witkowski entering the lineup in place of C Greg McKegg. Witkowski had been a healthy scratch the past nine games. . The Lightning have won five straight in Buffalo and are 11-1-1 in their last 13 meetings with the Sabres.
Lightning: Host New York Rangers on Monday.
Sabres: At Pittsburgh on Sunday.