TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Brayden Point is about as reliable as they come in a shootout.
The second-year center scored the deciding goal in a tiebreaker for the second consecutive game, lifting the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
Point improved to 8 for 13 in career shootout attempts and scored the winner for the fifth time.
“A lot of times he just goes down there and shoots the puck in the net,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s what you are supposed to do.”
Tyler Johnson, Chris Kunitz and Adam Erne scored in regulation for the NHL-leading Lightning, who played most of the game without Nikita Kucherov after the league’s top scorer was injured. Still, the Atlantic Division leaders edged second-place Toronto hours after acquiring defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller in a blockbuster deal with the New York Rangers just before the NHL trade deadline.
Tampa Bay parted with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, two prospects and two draft picks — a first-round selection in 2018 and a conditional high pick in 2019.
James van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak had the goals for Toronto, which played without injured star Auston Matthews. Frederik Andersen stopped 39 shots.
Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 27 saves for Tampa Bay. He denied Marner on a penalty shot with 6:02 left in the third period to keep the score tied.
Kucherov exited with 5:41 left in the first and did not return. The team announced he sustained an upper-body injury, but Cooper didn’t have an update following the game or offer any indication on how much time Kucherov could miss. The two-time All-Star has 82 points in 63 games.
Even without Kucherov and Namestnikov, a 20-goal scorer this season, the Lightning found a way to come out on top in a game that had a playoff feel.
“It was two teams that wanted to win a hockey game, that was pretty clear,” Cooper said. “It was fast, both teams competed, and it had pretty much everything. … It was a good hockey game.”
The game went back and forth with three lead changes before heading to overtime.
Johnson and Erne scored in the second period to erase a 2-1 deficit. Bozak scored on a power play 5:27 into the third to tie it.
“They’re a team we’re trying to catch and whenever you play the best you have to be the best to beat them,” Bozak said. “It’s a great challenge for us every time we play them and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight on the road. Nice to get a point.”
Toronto coach Mike Babcock did not share that sentiment.
“They’re a good team and it’s always great to get a point, but I didn’t think this was one of our better games,” he said.
NOTES: Toronto C Tomas Plekanec made his Maple Leafs debut wearing No. 19, one day after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens. … Matthews missed his second consecutive game with a shoulder injury. … With his goal, van Riemsdyk extended his scoring streak to six games. … Toronto D Morgan Rielly established a career high with 37 points. … Vasilevskiy earned his 37th win, tied with Ben Bishop for second-most in a season in franchise history and three shy of matching Bishop’s club record.
Lightning: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.
Maple Leafs: At the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.
More NHL hockey: <a target=”—blank” href=”https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey”>https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey</a>