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Kucherov makes franchise history as Lightning defeat Red Wings 3-2

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Vincent Lecavalier’s single-season record stands no more as Nikita Kucherov scored his 109th and 110th point this evening.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After Thursday night’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Lightning were gifted the bottom scraping Detroit Red Wings to get themselves back in the win column. Don’t let the final score fool you, the Lightning dominated the Red Wings and were victims of a flukey tip and a garbage time goal that did little other than dress the final result. Even with the Lightning marching themselves into the penalty box during the middle frame, the Red Wings did little to threaten them at any point. Nikita Kucherov broke Vincent Lecavalier’s single-season points record this evening with a two goal effort and further cemented himself as one of the greatest players to ever wear Lightning blue.

1st Period

Tampa Bay came out as aggressive as ever to start the opening period. The talent disparity between these two teams was apparent from the get go. Specifically, the fourth line, who had Yanni Gourde on it tonight, was particularly effective at pinning the Red Wings in their zone. Thanks to this pressure it didn’t take long for the Lightning to force a some faceoffs in the offensive zone. It was here that Tampa Bay got a little fortunate at 3:06 when Ryan McDonagh scored his eight goal of the season.

Jonathan Bernier simply put, has no idea where this shot is coming from. He’s looking through traffic on his right and McDonagh just happens to shoot to the left. Probably one of the easiest goals of his career.

Shortly after McDonagh’s goal, the Lightning received their first power-play of the evening with Darren Helm sitting for tripping at 3:28. This man advantage didn’t last long as Steven Stamkos was called for hooking at 4:10.

The ensuing 4-on-4 play produced little pressure from either team, and Detroit’s abbreviated power-play did little as well. Once play returned to 5v5, it appeared as though Victor Hedman had given the Lightning a 2-0 lead. However, the official on the ice immediately called it a no-goal. Personally, I knew it wasn’t a goal from the get-go. The way it bounced off the post and behind Bernier showed that it didn’t cross the goal line. The officials quickly reviewed it and came to the same conclusion.

Tampa Bay’s pressure continued and this time there was no doubt when they extended their lead.

Yes, that is Hedman on the forecheck (who was everywhere this evening). Yes, that is Kucherov somehow being left all alone in front of the crease. Yes, that is the new single-season points leader for the Tampa Bay Lightning with his 32nd goal and 109th point on the season. We’re witnessing one of the greatest offensive season’s of the salary cap era—enjoy it.

There was some nastiness between Stamoks and Justin Abdelkader during the period that peaked near the end of the period with both being penalized for roughing, but aside from that Tampa Bay did whatever they wanted this period. The Lightning controlled 60% of the shots at 5v5 and dictated the entire pace of the period.

2nd Period

After killing an overlapping penalty from the first period (Alex Killorn for tripping at 19:32), the Lightning went back on the offensive. Detroit looked lost as the Lightning forecheck forced the Red Wings into awkward situations that maintained possession in the offensive zone. A penalty to Danny DeKeyser gave Tampa Bay another power-play and they did everything except score on this opportunity. Kucherov and Stamkos both had one-timers that were either saved be Bernier or missed the net. Detroit couldn’t clear with any kind of consistency which led to Tampa Bay maintaining pressure. It was honestly surprising they didn’t score on this chance.

Then the penalty trouble started coming. Hedman was penalized for tripping at 9:51 and after that was effectively killed Mathieu Joseph was called for hi-sticking at 12:07. Detroit managed to apply some pressure on this man advantage but Louis Domingue stood tall and kept the Lightning’s two goal lead alive.

Once play returned to 5v5, it was all Tampa Bay again. Ryan Callahan had an in-close chance that rang off the post, Joseph had a great chance from the slot that was deflected high, and all of the momentum was in Tampa Bay’s favor until Hedman was called for another tripping penalty at 17:58.

This time, Detroit managed to get on the board after Thomas Vanek deflected a slap pass into the net at 19:56.

Thomas Vanek might be old and overall ineffective at 5v5, but the man still finds a way to be productive on the power-play. There wasn’t much Tampa Bay could do here. Vanek managed to use the heel of his blade to redirect it past Louis Domingue (who got a piece of it). So, after 40 minutes, the Red Wings trailed by one when they were getting dominated in every other face of the game.

If 60% possession is impressive, then the second period possession numbers for the Lightning will make your jaw drop—90%. I’m not kidding, Tampa Bay controlled 90% of the shots at 5v5. All but two of Detroit’s shots in the second period (nine in total), came from the power-play. Detroit was lucky to even be on the board at that point.

3rd Period

Detroit started the third with a bit more aggressiveness, but it didn’t take long for Tampa Bay to reassert themselves. The Lightning’s pressure eventually led to Abdelkader sitting for slashing at 4:09. Tampa Bay’s power-play wasn’t as crisp as their previous one, but the best chance was by Yanni Gourde in close that Bernier sprawled out to stop (lowkey, Bernier was Detroit’s best player this evening by several miles).

Once 5v5 play returned, Tampa Bay continued to push Detroit back and their pressure led to what everyone thought was Steven Stamkos’ franchise tying 383rd career goal to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately, the Red Wings challenged the play for offside and were proven correct upon review. It sucks, but the call was correct, even if it does leave a sour taste in our mouths.

This didn’t deter the Lightning as they continued to attack and force Detroit into bad positions. Anthony Cirelli had a great chance in the slot after Joseph made a great pass from below the goal line, but Bernier was there. Several point shots got through traffic, but again, Bernier was there. It felt like all Detroit needed was one flukey mistake to tie a game they had little business being in, but the dam finally broke when Kucherov decided to take matters into his own hands.

What a freaking missile of a shot by Kucherov. Bernier didn’t have a chance to move before the puck was already past him. This was Kucherov’s 33rd goal and 110th point on the year, so, now we just have to see how high Kucherov can climb. He’s on pace for 130 points, but with 13 games left against some strong competition, it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep it up and hit that mark. Regardless, it’s been fantastic to see a historic season like this first-hand.

Detroit managed to scrap one back during the final minute of regulation, but as mentioned before, it did nothing but dress the final result.

So, Tampa got a lucky goal to start the game and Detroit gets one to close the game—seems fitting. Domingue never really saw this shot and it looked like he struggled to keep track of where it was as it went to the top of the zone. Just like with Beriner, these goals happen sometimes.

Through three periods, Tampa Bay controlled 69% of the shots at 5v5 and controlled every metric you’d want from a team. Detroit made the score seem like it was closer than it was, but that isn’t even remotely the case this evening. That’s now 14 straight wins over the Detroit Red Wings, which is the most any team in NHL history has ever had.

Don’t believe me?

Game Data, Detroit @ Tampa Bay, Natural Stat Trick
Natural Stat Trick, www.naturalstattrick.com
Expected Goals 5 on 5, Detroit @ Tampa Bay
Money Puck, moneypuck.com

The Good

A Historic Season

We’re running out of accolades for Nikita Kucherov. Only player in the Lightning history with multiple (and consecutive) 100-point seasons. Holds the record for the most points in a season by a Lightning player. Is on pace to have one of the most prolific offensive seasons since Sidney Crosby back in 2007. There should be chants of “MVP” at Amalie Arena every time he scores a point. If Kucherov was on one of the more media darling teams of the league, he’d be getting praised ad nauseam. So, it’s up to us to hype him up so everyone can fully understand how special his season has been.

The Bad

Penalty Train

The officials weren’t especially good this evening, but I’m not one to immediately cry about the officiating—I find it to be a weak argument that is more steeped in bias than anything else. The only penalty I had an issue with was Hedman’s second tripping penalty that eventually led to Vanek’s goal—it was weak. The same play happened in the third and the officials didn’t call it, and there were multiple instances where Detroit (who is known for toeing the line with interference) got away with plays that would’ve normally been called. Regardless, the other two penalties on the Lightning in the second weren’t really arguable—they were what they were, same with the three in the first.

The Whatever

Big game on Monday with Tampa Bay traveling to Toronto. They’ve split the previous two meetings, but the Maple Leafs carried play in both of those games. It’d be nice to see Tampa Bay play well against them for once, but we’ll see what happens on Monday night.