Kucherov contributes 3 helpers as Lightning level series with Islanders
Tampa's Point scores in 5th straight game, pushes playoff tally to league-leading 10
The Tampa Bay Lightning are running out of superlatives to describe the playmaking ability of NHL playoff scoring leader Nikita Kucherov.
"He's just so smooth in the plays he makes, his vision and how he can see and make plays," Cooper added. "It almost looks effortless. ... I know it's not. He works at doing what he does extremely well. But he sure can make plays out of what looks like nothing. ... And, he is fun to watch."
Kucherov had his fourth game with three or more points this postseason, assisting on goals by Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman as the defending champions improved to 12-0 in games following a playoff loss since start of last year's title run.
WATCH | Kucherov sets up Palat to give Lightning the lead:
Point scored a goal for the fifth straight game, hiking his league-leading playoff total to 10. Palat put Tampa Bay ahead for good with a second-period goal that replays showed was scored with the Lightning having too many men on the ice.
"It was missed, that's hockey," New York winger Matt Martin said. "It happens, and there's nothing we can do about it. Move on to the next game at home and focus on that."
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 26 shots for the Lightning, who entered Tuesday night facing a series deficit for the first time since dropping Game 1 of last year's Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.
"We knew they were going to come with a good response," Islanders centre Brock Nelson said. "I thought we did a pretty good job out of the gates. But they were able to get a couple and get the lead and we weren't able to get it back."
Hedman and Jan Rutta scored in the third period against Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, who missed a portion of the opening period after a collision with Point a little over 13 minutes into the game.
WATCH | Goaltenders at forefront of NHL playoff picture:
Nelson and Mathew Barzal scored unassisted goals for New York, which — despite the loss — will return home feeling good about itself heading into Game 3 Thursday night.
"We can be a lot better and we will be," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said.
Point, pushed from behind by New York's Adam Pelech, barrelled into Varlamov at 6:50 of the first period. The Lightning star drew a penalty for interference on the goalie, and the Islanders wasted no time taking advantage of what Tampa Bay felt was a questionable call.
Nelson's goal from in front of the net tied it 1-1 just 20 seconds into the power play.
Ilya Sorokin replaced Varlamov for the remainder of the first period. He stopped all six shots he faced before Varlamov, who allowed four goals on 27 shots, returned.
WATCH | Islanders' Varlamov exits for remainder of 1st frame after collision: