Bolting up the standings: Kucherov’s two goals help Lightning win fifth straight


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Nikita Kucherov had two goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning extended a season-high winning streak to five games by beating the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers 3-1 on Sunday night.

Andrej Sustr had the other Tampa Bay goal and Ben Bishop made 26 saves to help the Lightning move within five points of Florida. Bishop is 7-1-1 against the Panthers.

Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. Florida is 0-2-1 since ending a 12-game winning streak. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves and became the seventh goalie to play in 900 NHL games.

Kucherov opened the scoring 4:21 into the second on a shot from the right circle that beat Luongo glove side. He put the Lightning up 3-1 with an empty-netter.

Luongo is 15-15-2 against Tampa Bay.

A minute after Vladislav Namestnikov skated down the slot alone and sent his in-close shot over the net, Sustr made it 2-0 with 1:30 left in the second on a rebound backhander after Jason Garrison‘s deflected shot went off glass above the end boards.

Bjugstad cut the Panthers deficit to 2-1 when he scored on the rebound of his own shot at 8:06 of the third.

The Panthers went 0 for 5 on the power play and have the league’s worst road power-play percentage with five goals in 64 chances.

NOTES: Panthers RW Jaromir Jagr headed toward the locker room 7 minutes into the third but returned to play a couple minutes later. … Florida D Aaron Ekblad missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury but could return late this week. … Lightning C Brian Boyle, hurt blocking a shot Friday, sat out with a lower-body injury. … Kucherov has a five-game point streak. … Luongo is six away from tying Glenn Hall for sixth place on the NHL goalie games-played list.