Los Angeles (AFP) – Nikita Kucherov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 to close out their opening round playoff series on Saturday.
Russia’s Kucherov finished with five goals and 10 points in the NHL Eastern Conference series for the Lightning, who eliminated the Devils four games to one.
Rising star Mikhail Sergachev and forward Ryan Callahan also scored goals on Saturday for the Lightning, who advance to the second round where they will play either the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto beat Boston 4-3 on Saturday to cut the Bruins’ series lead to 3-2.
American Callahan, who scored into an empty net with one second left, returned to the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed injury.
The Lightning won the first two games at home before splitting a pair on the road.
Kucherov ripped a shot past Devils goalie Cory Schneider halfway through the third period for his 27th career playoff goal. His 10 points in the opening round of the postseason is the most in franchise history in a series.
Sergachev, aged 19 years and 300 days, became the youngest Lightning player ever to score a playoff goal, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the first period in front of a crowd of 19,020 at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.
Kyle Palmieri scored the only goal and Schneider stopped 35 of 37 shots for the Devils, who were making their first appearance in the postseason in six years.
Schneider, of the US, kept the score close, making a breakaway save on Tampa forward Tyler Johnson in the third period.