TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Nikita Kucherov became the second player in the NHL to reach 100 points this season, and the Tampa Bay Lightning took a two-point lead in the Atlantic Division by beating the Buffalo Sabres 7-5 Friday night.
Kucherov scored in the first period and got his 100th point assisting on Dan Girardi’s goal 1:04 into the second that gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead.
Edmonton’s Connor McDavid tops the league with 106 points. According to the NHL, this is the first season since 2009-10 with multiple 100-point players.
The Lightning got two goals from Anthony Cirelli, while Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman also scored. Alex Killorn had three assists and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots.
Tampa Bay can wrap up the division title and the Eastern Conference’s best record with a win in its season finale Saturday night at Carolina, or a loss by second-place Boston in either of its final two games.
The Lightning played their second consecutive game without center Steven Stamkos, who is expected to be back for the playoffs.
Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander each got his first NHL goal for the last-place Sabres. The Elias Sports Bureau says it was first time since May 3, 1995, that two Buffalo players — Curtis Brown and Wayne Primeau — both scored their first NHL goal in the same game.
Jason Pominville, Jordan Nolan and Kyle Okposo also scored for Buffalo, and Chad Johnson had 27 saves.
After Girardi scored, Buffalo got goals from Pominville, Nolan and Okposo, during a power play, to go ahead 5-4 after the second period.
The Lightning rallied on third-period goals 47 seconds apart by Cirelli (6:15) and Point (7:02) in taking a 6-5 advantage. Hedman added an empty-netter.
The teams combined for five goals in the opening 9:40 of the game. Gourde, who put Tampa Bay up 3-2, set team records for goals (25) and points (64).
Cirelli and Kucherov also had first-period goals for the Lightning, while Mittelstadt, on the power play, and Nylander scored the Buffalo goals.
NOTES: Gourde’s goal was his first in 14 games. … This was the 22nd time in 81 games that Buffalo (16-1-5) led after two periods.
Sabres: Close out the regular season Saturday night at Florida.
Lightning: Will look to extend their franchise-record breaking road win total to 26 against the Hurricanes.