Point scores milestone 20th goal as Lightning walk over Devils
With a four-point night, Nikita Kucherov is now only three back of league leader Mikko Rantanen.
The Tampa Bay Lightning walked into New Jersey on Monday night and did what they normally do: win. Nikita Kucherov led the way with a goal and three assists in the 5-1 win that only really took 30ish minutes before it was in the bag.
Kucherov now has 42 points on the season, which is only three back of league leader Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen’s Colorado Avalanche will be in Tampa Bay on Saturday night for what could be an amazing night of hockey.
Young center Brayden Point — who has been all over the news due to his pending contract negotiation — joined his linemate on the scoresheet, notching a goal and two assists himself. The three points gives Point 20 goals and 37 points in only 28 games this season. He is two ahead of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and one behind Toronto’s Mitchell Marner (also an RFA) for sixth in the league in scoring.
Louis Domingue had a relatively quiet night, stopping 26 of 27 shots he faced in the win. He could probably go again Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, but I think it’s time to give him a rest and let Eddie Pasquale make his first career NHL start. The 28-year-old has definitely earned it after nine seasons in the AHL.
Before the recap, I have some more thoughts on Point that I think are important for Bolts fans to keep in mind as the business side of hockey becomes more prominent in the talking points of the game.
The number for Point keeps going up. Milestone goals and points won’t help with Julien BriseBois’ upcoming negotiation with the leagues most underrated player either.
What I will say to Bolts fans is to not worry about his future cap number, not to begrudge Point as he keeps putting up incredible numbers, not to want him to score less. This is an incredible roster. This is an incredibly fun roster. This is a STANLEY CUP contending season. Let’s appreciate this moment and cheer on these players. Worry about the salary cap in July.
It’s really hard to catch a speeding bullet when you don’t know where it is or how fast it’s going. Same thing with the cap. We don’t know who’s going to be on the roster, or how well Point does, especially in the playoffs. Until those things happen, let’s not worry.
Okay, onto the game.
Perhaps it was the Devils out-playing their opponents, but the Bolts did a terrible job getting out of their own side of center ice in the first 10 minutes of the game. New Jersey carried the vast majority of the play, took four shots, and drew a hooking penalty on Kucherov.
One thing I noticed the Bolts were doing a lot was chipping the puck off the glass and out. The broadcast noted that when Erik Cernak made the move to relieve pressure in his own zone, citing that it was a smart, safe move. Frankly, it’s really a crutch and only further forces the team on defense under pressure.
The Devils were quickly able to grab the puck back and carry it into the offensive zone for another round of chances against the same tired group of Lightning skaters. It’s hard to move your feet and make strong outlet passes to wingers, but it’s really the only consistent solution to that vicious cycle.
Immediately following the penalty kill (which was executed very well), the Lightning woke up offensively and put six straight shots on Keith Kinkaid, the Point line taking on the brunt of the offensive burden.
Mikhail Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh did a great job passing the puck out of the defensive zone — despite the heavy forechecking against them — and getting the puck up to the forwards. *claps hands* That’s what I’ve been saying, boys! Anyway, Point took the puck and zipped through the neutral zone, before dropping the puck off to Kucherov behind him. From there, Kuch did the rest of the work. Nice and easy release for his 52nd goal in 110 games. Don’t ask me why I know that stat, I’m pretty sure I just stole it from the broadcast.
With Egor Yakovlev in the box for slashing Kucherov out of a goal, the power play got to work and gave Point his 20th goal of the season. With Pointer in the middle of the zone, the rest of the power play unit did a great job of spreading the Devils penalty killers out, giving Point enough space to settle a Kucherov pass and snipe it into the top corner on Kinkaid, doubling the lead for the Bolts. Not only was the goal Point’s 20th, but it also marked Kucherov’s 40th point of the season a mere 28 games in. Point is second in team scoring with 36.
The Lightning had a sub-par start to the game, but really turned it on following the Kucherov infraction. By the end of the period, they were leading in 5v5 shot attempts (20-9), shots (12-5), and tied in scoring chances (6-6).
The Lightning did a really good job at the start of the second to maintain control of the puck in the offensive zone. After several shifts of this where it felt like the Bolts had the puck for an eternity, one of those chances produced a goal. After a quick cycle following a faceoff, McDonagh threw the puck on net from the corner and Johnson tipped it just enough to direct the puck into the net.
The Lightning (namely J.T. Miller, Braydon Coburn, and another one I missed) messed up their assignments immediately following a faceoff and the 27-year-old Russian free agent, and former SKA St. Petersburg defenseman, Yegor Yakovlev scored his first goal in the NHL.
The Lightning got it right back on the next shift. Ondrej Palat did a great job protecting the puck all around the offensive zone for long enough to find Steven Stamkos in front of the net with a backhand pass. Stamkos also used the spinning backhand move and sent a pass to Gourde, who tipped the puck into the empty net. Don’t get dizzy, guys!
The Lightning extended their leads in 5v5 shot attempts (33-20), shots (18-11), but weren’t been able to get ahead in terms of scoring chances (12-14). Most of the Lightning’s shots have come from the edges following long-distance passes, so they haven’t exactly needed to to get right into the core of the net. It’s another equally effective way to take advantage of control over the middle of the ice, which the Lightning accomplished against the Devils.
Blake Coleman took a slashing penalty with eight seconds left in the second, and Stamkos made him pay 20 seconds into the third. Point made an incredible spinning pass from the half-wall following a messy entry into the offensive zone. He was lucky, frankly, to get it all the way over to Stamkos at the far wing. Either way, the captain wound up and fired a shot, clean past Kinkaid. A nice, quick piece of business.
Tampa’s next game comes up quick as the team travels to Michigan to play the Detroit Red Wings on the second night of a back-to-back. Oh, goody, another bad-team-but-somehow-still-a-rival rival! Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST. See you there!