VANCOUVER — Nikita Kucherov said he wasn't shooting for a particular spot Wednesday night. The only thing he knew is he wanted to shoot high.
The Lightning's rookie right wing did just that with incredible precision, sending a screaming, hyper-elevating slap shot from the right faceoff circle over the glove of defenseless Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack.
The power-play goal with 2.6 seconds left in the second period was the winner in a 4-2 decision at Rogers Arena, as Tampa Bay broke a two-game losing streak, set the tone for a stretch in which it will play seven of eight games on the road, and got the best of a Vancouver squad that was 10-1-2 in December.
"I just shot it," said Kucherov, whose fourth goal of the season broke a 2-2 tie. "I didn't think about where it was going."
The Lightning (24-12-4), which won its season-best fourth straight road game, also got goals from Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson and Alek Killorn.
Goaltender Ben Bishop, who earlied in the day had to process the disappointment of being left off the U.S. Olympic team, got his 21st win with 28 saves. Tampa Bay also got a bit healthier with the return of left wing Ryan Malone (ankle) and defenseman Eric Brewer (believed to be an arm injury).
And it put to bed two maddening losses out of the holiday break in which turnovers and inconsistency could not be overcome.
"We played a solid road game," coach Jon Cooper said. "If you want any chance of making the playoffs, you have to find ways to win games on the road, and hold leads in the third period."
"We answered all night," he added. "Getting that third goal was the turning point for us."
But before that could happen the teams went on a spree of three goals in 34 seconds.
Filppula scored on a wrist shot with 4:33 left in the second period to tie the score 1-1. Twenty seconds later Johnson scored on a tap-in of Ondrej Palat's perfect cross-slot pass. And 14 seconds after that Zac Delpe scored his first NHL goal with 3:59 left to make it 2-2. He was helped by sloppy play in the defensive end by Matt Carle and Radko Gudas, though the play should have been stopped by an an icing.
Even so, all that did was set up Kucherov. It was a nice play all around as Gudas at the blue line hustled to keep the puck in the offensive zone and then sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Kucherov whose shot elevated so quickly, Lack had no chance to react.
"Did I see it?" Killorn said. "I was in front of the net just trying to get out of the way. He's a skilled player and great at finding open space, and once he shoots it he does know how to pick a corner."
Asked if on his shot he got all the puck, Kucherov smiled: "Yeah."
First Period—None. Penalties—Carle, TB (tripping), 15:55.
Second Period—1, Vancouver, Richardson 8 (Higgins), 11:25. 2, Tampa Bay, Filppula 15 (Purcell, Killorn), 15:27. 3, Tampa Bay, Johnson 11 (Palat, Barberio), 15:47. 4, Vancouver, Dalpe 1 (Weise, Sestito), 16:01. 5, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 4 (Gudas, Carle), 19:57 (pp). Penalties—Bieksa, Van (slashing), 3:26; Higgins, Van (tripping), 9:13; Cote, TB (holding stick), 12:58; Weber, Van (hooking), 18:10.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Killorn 10 (Hedman, Filppula), 7:28. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-14-8—33. Vancouver 11-9-10—30. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 3; Vancouver 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 21-5-3 (30 shots-28 saves). Vancouver, Lack 7-3-1 (33-29). A—18,910 (18,910). T—2:26. Referees—Eric Furlatt, Francis Charron. Linesmen—Brad Lazarowich, Shane Heyer.