Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring for the Tampa Bay Lightning only 22 seconds into the first period as the team beat the Montreal Canadiens, 5-3. Only 24 hours after giving up a large lead to Toronto and losing, the Lightning scored early while relying on the defense to hold Montreal in check.
In only his third career start, Lightning netminder Matt Tomkins earned his first win with a dominant performance against the Canadiens. Aided by a much-maligned but responsive defensive unit, the rookie stopped 22 of 25 shots he faced.
Nick Paul, Alex Barre-Boulet, and Michael Eyssimont rounded out the first period scoring with a goal each. The four goals in the first period in two consecutive games is the first time since Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings did so in 1993-94.
“There was a little determination to our game. There was desperation in our game,” Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said. “You talk about responses and that first period was a big one for us.”
Although they were stymied most of the game, the Canadiens rallied late in the third to pick up a few quick goals from Nick Suzuki and Michael Pizzetta. A visibly-shaken Lightning bench struggled to respond and relied on Tomkins to continue stopping key shots.
A holding call on Jake Evans with minutes left to play allowed Nick Paul to score his second goal of the night and seal the game.
Kucherov continues to dominate
Kucherov’s tenth goal equaled the fastest goal scored in the NHL this season so far. The star forward would then pick up an assist later in the period to continue his dominance this season.
New day, same sweet release from Nikita Kucherov 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/XJpuRZxMBI
— NHL (@NHL) November 8, 2023
With his two points tonight, Kucherov had 11 points in the past three games. The Russian leads the NHL in points scored so far this year. In just the past three games, Kucherov has accumulated 30 scoring attempts.
Tomkins earns his first NHL victory
Relegated to playing in Sweden the past two seasons and seeing his dream to play NHL hockey in limbo, Matt Tomkins found himself in the driver’s seat from the crease against Montreal. Tomkins made key saves throughout the game, utilizing his skills while keeping pucks out of the net.
An aggressive playing style squaring up on Montreal shooters kept the Canadiens at bay most of the night. The 29-year-old gained the respect of his teammates with his gritty performance.
“That’s someone that put the work in,” Nick Paul commented. “It wasn’t an easy road for him. He just put his head down and grind, grind, grind. He got the game puck tonight.”
“What a thrill!” Cooper stated. “If you were going to draw it up, I’m not sure you can draw it up any better than getting to play in the Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens to get your first NHL win.”
“He’s just grown. When you are watching this 29-year-old kid grow in the net…it was great to be a part of that!”
New players begin to step up and emerge
While the Lightning can always rely on the likes of Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, players such as Alex Barre-Boulet and Michael Eyssimont are starting to make names for themselves.
Eyssimont scored for the second night in a row on two incredible shots. Barre-Boule scored his fourth goal of the season and has four points in his last five games.
“BB (Barre-Boulet) has shown this early part of the season we can put him out there in certain situations,” Cooper said. “BB is how the whole process works. Once you figure out the speed of this league, let’s see if you can keep playing.”
Nick Paul scored twice and Brandon Hagel added two assists as they continue to build their impressive resumes as members of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bolts’ were two of five on the power play tonight, including the key goal by Paul in the third to ice the game.
“Paulie has really picked up where (Alex Killorn) left off,” Cooper said. “He’s got great instincts. He’s been a big part of why the power play is humming the way it is.”
Defensively, Tampa Bay’s penalty kill units have been stifling so far this year. Tonight, Montreal was only one of six on the power play.
Three Stars of the Game
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Another night, another magical performance leading the franchise.
Matt Tomkins, Tampa Bay The 29-year-old netminder gains his first NHL win on hallowed ground in Montreal.
Alex Barre-Boulet, Tampa Bay A tough performance, the young Barre-Boulet is starting to shine.
Rookie sensation Connor Benard and the Chicago Blackhawks visit Amalie Arena Thursday. The game also highlights the return of Corey Perry, who leads the Blackhawks in scoring with Benard. Puck drop is at 7pm.
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