Nikita Kucherov, No. 1 Lightning top Canucks 5-2 in feisty battle | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Nikita Kucherov, No. 1 Lightning top Canucks 5-2 in feisty battle

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) tries to stop Vancouver Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev's goal as Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Ryan McDonagh (27), Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (73) and Vancouver Canucks center Jay Beagle (83) look on during third period NHL action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
December 18, 2018 - 11:48 PM

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks didn't get a win Tuesday night, but head coach Travis Green liked his young squad's intensity in the heated matchup.

A feisty Canucks squad kept pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game marked with a flurry of fights, but they couldn't overpower the NHL's No. 1 team.

"It was a hell of a hockey game," Green said of the 5-2 loss. "I like the way our team is coming together. They're sticking together, they're battling hard. This was a man's game out there tonight. It was a hard-fought game."

Tyler Motte and Chris Tanev put up goals for the Canucks (16-17-4).

Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne, Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning (26-7-2).

Anders Nilsson stopped 34-of-38 shots for Vancouver and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves for Tampa.

Fists flew a number of times, starting with a tilt between Vancouver's Antoine Roussel and Tampa's Yanni Gourde. The Canucks left-winger hit the Lightning centre along the boards, sparking a fight that saw Roussel pummel Gourde on the ice before officials could intervene.

By the end of the game, Roussel had amassed a fighting major, a roughing minor and an assist.

"It's fun to fight, it fun to be pesky," he said. "You go out there and fight really hard but you still have to win games. That's our main goal here, to win games."

There was a unique intensity to the game, added Roussel.

"It felt like a playoff game a little bit. Like everything was on the line. And if you can get those in the season, it's wonderful," he said.

Lightning head coach John Cooper said he was a little surprised at the animosity between the two teams, but he liked the way his group responded.

"You're not advocating things either way about the rough stuff but you want your guys sticking up for each other and it looked like two teams sticking up for each other," he said. "When the rough stuff and that kind of thing goes down, you look to see guys got to protect themselves and stick up for each other and that's what guys did."

Another skirmish began after Tampa left-winger Danick Martel delivered a high hit on Vancouver's Troy Stecher.

The defenceman had to be helped off the ice and headed directly to the dressing room. Green said he's hurt but did not elaborate on the injury.

Roussel was sitting in the penalty box and said he had a clear view of the hit.

"I thought it was awful to be honest with you," he said. "I mean, it's a hard game to ref sometimes and I can't blame anybody ... but I really thought he could have five minutes for that. And it was right in front of me. It sucks."

Martel was handed a two minute minor for interference, but felt it was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder play.

"I think it was a good hit," he said. "I had the puck after, that's what you want, and I got jumped but I protect myself and I was ready for it."

Tampa was up 3-1 at the time, but Vancouver was out-shooting the Lightning and controlling the flow.

"After my hit I think we were playing in their head too," Martel said. "They were just trying to hit us instead of playing the puck. So we had the puck a lot, we created a lot of plays."

The 24-year-old also notched his first-ever NHL point on Tuesday, getting an assist on Paquette's goal.

It was only Martel's second game of the year with the Lightning and he nearly didn't make it on to the roster.

Right-winger Ryan Callahan had some upper-body issues during warmup and was scratched from the game.

Martel was on his way to the rink when he got the call saying he needed to get his gear on.

"It was pretty close but I was not really ready for it. I was walking pretty slowly, on my phone and just hanging out there," he said.

The key to the performance was not thinking, Martel said.

"I was just expecting absolutely nothing. Pretty much everyone would have thought I would have a bad game, he's going to play two or three minutes, maybe one (defence) shift and just covers some shifts," he said.

"But I wanted to make a difference. I don't have a lot of opportunities and when I have some I need to get ready."

The Canucks continue their five-game homestand Thursday when they host the St. Louis Blues.

The Lightning head to Calgary where they'll take on the Flames on Thursday.

NOTES: Tampa Bay centre Brayden Point notched an assist Tuesday, marking his 150th NHL point. ... The Lightning have not lost in regulation since Nov. 27. ... Tampa Bay's leading scorer Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist. He's now tallied 50 points so far this season, good for third in the NHL scoring race.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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