A feisty Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, set up another and knocked the Devils’ top defenseman out of the game with a big hit, and the Tampa Bay Lightning moved within a game of making the Devils’ first trip to the playoffs in six years a short one with a 3-1 road victory on Wednesday night.
J. T. Miller also scored and had two assists, and the Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped three breakaways in making 27 saves as the Lightning bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Tampa Bay can wrap up the best-of-seven series in Game 5 at home on Saturday.
Kyle Palmieri scored on a five-on-three advantage for the Devils, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. It was the only time they beat Vasilevskiy, whose 44 wins in the regular season shared the league lead with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Cory Schneider made 34 saves for the Devils in starting his second straight game.
This game might have been the roughest of the series, especially in the first period when the Lightning took a 2-1 lead in a session with a lot of scrums.
A play the N.H.L. probably will look at is Kucherov’s hit on Sami Vatanen late in the first. No penalty was called, but the league’s No. 3 scorer appeared to jump before hitting Vatanen in the shoulder and head area. Devils Coach John Hynes screamed at the officials after the play.
The Lightning were leading 2-1 at that point, and the score did not change until Kucherov empty net goal with 1 minute 8 seconds to play clinched the victory.
PENGUINS 5, FLYERS 0 Sidney Crosby scored his fifth goal of the series and became Pittsburgh’s career postseason points leader in a win in Philadelphia.
The Penguins lead the first-round playoff series by three games to one as its shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday.
Matt Murray stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the series, and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are a win away from playing in the second round for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons.
Crosby scored in the second period for a 4-0 lead and passed Mario Lemieux, who is a Hall of Fame member and a Penguins owner, for most playoff points with 173. Crosby and the Penguins followed a 7-0 Game 1 win and a 5-1 Game 3 victory with another dominant outing.
The Flyers were already on their second goalie by the time Crosby scored. The Penguins chased Brian Elliott early in the period after he allowed his 14th goal of the series. Michal Neuvirth relieved Elliott, but it didn’t matter. Neuvirth lost track of the puck behind the net and had his head turned to the right when Crosby found the puck and snapped it under the goalie’s left skate.