WATCH: Blashill, Zetterberg, Athanasiou & Abdelkader After 2-1 OT Loss To Lightning
DETROIT (AP) - Nikita Kucherov took the advice of Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper by shooting the puck more, and that has the Lightning hanging around the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Kucherov was on the mark again Friday night, redirecting Brayden Point's pass into the Detroit Red Wings net 3:28 into overtime as the Lightning rallied for a 2-1 victory.
The win moved Tampa Bay within a point of the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.
Kucherov had nine shots on goal in a game Feb. 19 at Colorado, though he didn't score. The next game, he did find the net, and he's been on fire since, leading the NHL with 29 points, including 17 goals.
"He's a shooter," Cooper said of Kucherov. "In today's day and age, everyone wants to pass. For certain guys in this league, pucks have eyes. He's got the gift. When they get that shooting mentality, pucks will go in."
Kucherov was just happy to see one go in for him when the Lightning needed it most, although he passed the credit for the winner on to Point.
"He's a great player," Kucherov said. "He's smart. He faked a shot and found me back door.
"That's what good players do."
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, it was Kucherov's hard point shot that led to the tying goal 5:03 into the third period. Goalie Petr Mrazek couldn't corral Kucherov's drive, allowing Ondrej Palat to slam the rebound into the net.
"We were just talking about we have to shoot more, we have to go in front of the net more," Palat said. "That's what happened."
Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point.
Zetterberg felt both teams struggled to find any space on the ice in a tight-checking affair.
"I thought it was rough from both teams," Zetterberg said. "It was not a pretty hockey game in the first period, not a lot of complete passes. A lot of play in the neutral zone and it was ugly.
"I thought we got better in the second. Actually both teams got moving a little bit better. So we got a little more pace. So from then on it was pretty good."
Coming to Detroit off Thursday's 6-3 win at Boston, Cooper knew his team would find it difficult to get their legs going in the second game of back-to-backs on the road.
"At this point you say every game is a must win but let's be honest - if we don't come out of these two games with four points, we're in trouble," Cooper said. "To come in on the back-to-back and be down in the third and gut one out, I'm pretty proud of the guys."
Detroit grabbed a point for the fourth time in five games, but coach Jeff Blashill wasn't pleased with his team's overall performance.
"Our start wasn't good enough," Blashill said. "We've talked lots about making sure we're ultra-competitive, that our second- and third-effort on pucks are real good. I didn't think we came out ... we weren't crisp, our attention to detail wasn't good enough, the compete wasn't good enough.
"Obviously, it picked up a lot more in the second and third."
NOTES: Detroit F Darren Helm missed his third straight game due to a lower-body injury. ... Zetterberg is the Red Wings nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. ... Lightning F Vladimir Namestnikov is the nephew of former Red Wings F Slava Kozlov. .... ... Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman (62) is closing in on the Lightning single-season record for points by a defenseman. Roman Hamrlik had 65 points in 1995-96.
Lightning: Host Chicago on Monday.
Red Wings: Host Minnesota on Sunday.