OTTAWA, Ontario — Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning are back atop the NHL.
Kucherov had two assists to reach 80 points this season and Tampa Bay defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on Thursday night.
Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point scored for the Lightning (41-17-3), who leapfrogged expansion Vegas to regain the top spot in the overall standings with 85 points. Louis Domingue earned his third win by stopping 33 shots.
Kucherov, the NHL’s leading scorer, has 32 goals and 48 assists in 61 games.
Ryan Dzingel, Mark Borowiecki and Derick Brassard scored for the Senators (21-29-10), who are 0-2-1 in their last three games. Craig Anderson made 20 saves.
The loss snapped the Senators’ five-game winning streak on home ice. And with Monday afternoon’s trade deadline quickly approaching, Ottawa players are finding it difficult to stay focused.
“There’s definitely a little bit of anxiety in here,” Borowiecki said.
“You’d be foolish to say that it’s not playing a bit of a role. I’ve been here four years now and this is the most rumors I’ve seen for a lot of guys, a lot of core guys in here, and you really do your best to cut it out, but we’re all humans. At some point it’s going to creep in a little bit.”
Brassard made it a one-goal game by scoring on the power play with just more than two minutes remaining, but the Senators were unable to complete the comeback.
Brassard is one of a handful of Ottawa players who has been mentioned in trade speculation and he said it’s hard to ignore the talk.
“We have a couple of days before the deadline, but we have to play, we have to do our job and we have to play for each other and the rest will take care of itself,” Brassard said.
“We all have phones and social media, and even on TV. It’s part of the business. I’ve been there before and there’s nothing you can do. You try to block it and try to play. We’re still trying to get better as a team and still trying to push. We just have to come here and basically play and whatever is going to happen Monday is going to happen and you just move on after.”
Ottawa made it 4-2 midway through the third as Borowiecki, with his third of the season, had a wide-open net after catching Domingue out of position. The goal was initially waved off due to goaltender interference, but the Senators challenged and upon review it was ruled a good goal.
The Lightning took a 3-1 lead three minutes into the second as Kucherov fed Namestnikov, who was able to break in alone and beat Anderson.
Ottawa had a number of chances to try and close the gap, but couldn’t beat Domingue.
Tampa Bay made it 4-1 with less than a second left in the second period when Point was left all alone in front and scored his 24th of the season.
The Lightning opened the scoring midway through the period as Johnson beat Anderson high from long range. Chris Kunitz got his 600th career point with an assist.
Ottawa tied the game at the 14-minute mark as Dzingel showed off some sweet stick work and tucked a puck in behind Domingue for his 16th of the season.
Less than two minutes later, the Lightning regained the lead as they hemmed the Senators in their own end and Hedman beat Anderson through the legs from in close.
Bobby Ryan returned to the Senators’ lineup after missing 10 games with a hand injury.
NOTES: LW Max McCormick and D Fredrik Claesson were healthy scratches for the Senators. … Tampa Bay D Andrej Sustr and C Cory Conacher were healthy scratches.
Lightning: Saturday night at Montreal.
Senators: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon.
More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey