May 25th, 2024

Kucherov is 5th player in NHL to reach 100 assists as Lighting beat Matthews, Maple Leafs 6-4

By John Kreiser, The Associated Press on April 17, 2024.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Auston Matthews came up empty in his bid to become the ninth player in NHL history to score 70 goals in a season, but Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov became the fifth player to have a 100-assist season as the Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Wednesday night.

Matthews was denied on all seven first-period shots by 29-year-old rookie goalie Matt Tomkins, then rocketed a shot off the post midway through the second period. Tomkins finished with 35 saves, including 12 on Matthews, in his sixth NHL start.

Matthews finishes the season with 69 goals in 81 games.

Kucherov, the NHL’s scoring leader with 144 points, scored a first-period goal, then set up Brayden Point’s power-play goal with 2:55 left in the second for the history-making assist. He reached the milestone two days after Edmonton’s Connor McDavid did it.

Ryan Reaves, TJ Brodie, Pontus Holmberg and John Tavares scored, and Martin Jones finished with 26 saves for Toronto.

Nicholas Paul and Anthony Duclair each had a goal and an assist, and Tanner Jeannot also scored for Tampa Bay, which ended an 0-2-1 slide.

Each team is headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this weekend on the road against an Atlantic Division rival. The third-place Maple Leafs open in Boston against the second-place Bruins on Saturday, while the fourth-place Lightning, the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, begin their series against the division champion Florida Panthers on Sunday.

The Lightning jumped in front 3:58 into the game when a perfect saucer pass by Duclair set up Paul’s tap-in. It became 2-0 at 6:14 when Kucherov knocked in his own rebound.

Reaves got the Maple Leafs on the board with 6:42 left. But Paul returned the favor to Duclair at 6:37 of the second, setting up his linemate for a shot into a half-empty net and a 3-1 lead.

Point’s goal made it 4-1, and Brandon Hagel scored 52 seconds later for a four-goal lead. Jeannot made it 6-1 at 11:27 of the third period before Brodie, Holmberg and Tavares added late goals for Toronto.



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