NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mathieu Joseph enjoyed a very happy birthday, even if he couldn’t play in front of his favorite fans.
Steven Stamkos had two goals and an assist, Joseph scored twice on his 24th birthday and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to lead the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning past the Nashville Predators 6-1 on Tuesday night.
“Usually my parents are there for my birthday wherever I play, and this year obviously with COVID they weren’t,” Joseph said. “I usually play good games in front of my parents.”
Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde also scored for the Stanley Cup champions, who have won six straight games — the longest active streak in the NHL. Four of those wins have come against the Predators in the last 11 days.
Rocco Grimaldi had the lone goal for Nashville, which has lost five of six. Juuse Saros made 24 saves.
“It (stinks) that we’re going though this right now, but hopefully this is going to make us stronger,” Grimaldi said. “Hopefully this is going to bind us together as a team.”
Grimaldi opened the scoring 4:43 in, but Tampa Bay rattled off three goals in 2:35 beginning with Stamkos’ goal at 11:28 of the first period. Palat followed with a power-play goal at 12:31 and Joseph concluded the scoring in the opening period at 14:03.
Vasilevskiy, rested Monday for the first time since last March, looked sharp in the second game of the back-to-back set between the teams. Curtis McElhinney made his first appearance Monday in 11 months and backstopped the Lightning to a 4-1 victory over the Predators.
Nashville appeared to draw within one late in the second, but a coach’s challenge wiped out Colton Sissons’ goal when the play was deemed offside.
Gourde made it 4-1 at 6:40 of the third, scoring off the rebound of Mikhail Sergachev’s shot. Stamkos and Joseph later converted both ends of a double-minor high-sticking call on Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis.
“Special teams, we talk about it all the time,” Stamkos said. “It’s the difference in the games. On the penalty kill, it starts with our goaltender and then it starts with our guys that are out there sacrificing their bodies. They did a great job tonight.”
Tampa Bay finished 3 of 5 on the power play, while Nashville came up empty in four attempts.
“They came out energized as we knew they would,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They were trying to play the physical game. Sometimes when you are going to do that, you might be apt to take some penalties. They did and we made them pay and that was it.”
Lightning center Brayden Point had three assists, extending his point streak to six games. He has at least one point in all but one of Tampa Bay’s 11 games this season.
Sergachev also had three assists for the Lightning. He has four in his last two games.
MALONE’S DEBUT IN GOLD
Nashville recalled center Sean Malone from the taxi squad and inserted him into the lineup. It was the Harvard alum’s second NHL game, coming nearly four years after the Buffalo native made his debut with his hometown Sabres on April 8, 2017.
Malone quickly got his first career point, picking up the primary assist on Grimaldi’s goal.
Stamkos extended his point streak against the Predators to six games. Tampa Bay’s captain has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in his last six games against Nashville. Including an empty-net goal Monday night, Stamkos has scored in all four games versus the Predators this season.
Luke Kunin returned to Nashville’s lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Nick Cousins and Erik Haula came out of the Predators’ lineup. Both played in Nashville’s first 12 games, with Cousins scoring once and adding four assists, and Haula posting four assists.
Tampa Bay returns to the Sunshine State for a pair of road games against the Florida Panthers on Thursday and Saturday.
The Predators remain in Nashville for games against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and Saturday.
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