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Tampa Bay Times

Lightning ride momentum into All-Star break

By Kristie Ackert,

Lightning left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare celebrates after his goal against the Kings during the first period Saturday night at Amalie Arena. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]

TAMPA — About an hour and a half before the puck dropped Saturday night, Jon Cooper had a concern. The Lightning coach was thrilled with how his team had played in beating the NHL-leading Bruins on Thursday night, and he was happy with how his players had stepped up against the Wild on Tuesday.

With the Kings coming into Amalie Arena for the last game before the Lightning go on an eight-day All-Star break, Cooper was concerned about a letdown.

“We’ve had a couple of really good games and wins against Minnesota and Boston. And now we’re playing L.A. We’re playing a team that you see twice a year, so you hope that (the players) aren’t looking ahead to (the break),” Cooper said. “But that’s just a coach’s worry.”

The Lightning erased those concerns quickly.

Tampa Bay’s fourth line scored twice and the Lightning scored three goals in the first period as they beat the Kings 5-2.

The Bolts won their 12th straight game at Amalie Arena, a franchise record and the second-longest streak in the NHL this season, behind the Bruins. They improved to 32-15-1 and the Kings dropped to 28-18-6.

Brayden Point scored his sixth game-opening goal of the season at 14:58 of the first. A minute and 19 seconds later Pierre-Edouard Bellemare gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead. Corey Perry, the right wing on Bellemare’s fourth line, ripped in a rebound at 15:57. Nikita Kucherov, who stole the puck from the Kings’ defensemen behind the net and set up Point, extended his home point streak to 15 games, dating to Nov. 25.

Ross Colton scored his 10th goal of the season, chasing down the rebound of a Nick Perbix shot and flipping up past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick at 15:20 in the second period. It was Perbix’s third assist of the night. It was the rookie defenseman’s first three-point game in the NHL.

Victor Hedman slapped a 95-mile-an-hour rocket past Quick with 3:57 to play in the third for his second goal in as many games.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s shot on goal dribbled through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pads for the Kings’ goal in the first period. Lightning defenseman Ian Cole tried to bat down a Phillip Danault pass and it ended up sneaking past Vasilevskiy with 1:52 to play in the second period.

The Lightning swept the week that Cooper said would be a big test against playoff-caliber teams. Now, that momentum goes into an extended break. Anthony Cirelli, however, isn’t worried about losing it.

“I think everyone here could use the time off to rest up,” Cirelli said. “We showed how we can play, we still have some areas we can improve on, but we showed we can play with these teams.”

This story will be updated.

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