Nikita Kucherov awarded first star of the week

The NHL lauded Kucherov for keeping the Lightning in the playoff race and for setting personal milestones.

The NHL has awarded our February Thunder of the Month, Nikita Kucherov, first star of the week. Kucherov has nearly singlehandedly kept the Bolts' playoff hopes alive in the past month, setting personal scoring records along the way.

In the past three games alone, Kucherov has earned 5 goals and 2 assists (7 points), and on March 23rd, completed the third hat-trick of his career. He is currently second to Sidney Crosby in goals scored. Kucherov also leads the entire league in power-play goals.

Here are our words praising him in February: “With Steven Stamkos out of the lineup since November, Kucherov has been shouldering the burden of putting points on the board every night as the team hasn’t lived up to what anyone was expecting of them this season. Despite missing eight games this season, Kucherov leads the team in points and is on pace to be the Lightning’s top scorer for the second straight season.”

Goal Leaders:

1. Sidney Crosby - 42

2. Nikita Kucherov - 38

3. Brad Marchand - 37

Power-Play Goal Leaders:

1. Nikita Kucherov - 17

2. Wayne Simmonds - 15 and Brayden Schenn - 15

In Kucherov’s past three seasons of playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he has earned 9 goals and 9 assists (18 points) in 2013-14, 29 goals and 36 assists (65 points) in 2014-15, and 30 goals, 36 assists (66 points) in 2015-16. This season, he's so far earned 38 goals and 40 assists (78 points), the best in his NHL career.

The press release states:

Kucherov posted 5-2-7 in three games, all multi-point performances, to lead the Lightning (36-29-9, 81 points) to a pair of victories and help the team remain within three points of the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. He collected 1-1-2 in a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes March 21. Kucherov then registered his third career hat trick, including his League-leading 16th and 17th power-play goals of the season, in 6-3 win over the Boston Bruins March 23. He closed the week with another 1-1-2 effort, highlighted by his second career overtime goal (also Jan. 9, 2016 at VAN), in a 2-1 triumph against the Detroit Red Wings March 24. The 23-year-old Maykop, Russia, native ranks second in the NHL with 38 goals and sixth with 78 points in 67 outings this season, both career highs.

Watch Kucherov’s 100th NHL goal from March 18 against the Washington Capitals:

Watch Kucherov’s March 23 Hat Trick against the Boston Bruins: