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Kucherov Shines in Marquee Matchup

Photo: Tampa Bay Lightning

With twelve games across the national hockey league tonight, this one at Amalie is being billed as the Marquee Matchup for several reasons. For one thing, it is one of five games across the league that features a rematch of a Stanley Cup final series- as Tampa Bay Lightning fans will continue to lament 2022 when the Colorado Avalanche thwarted their valiant attempt to “3peat”. Additionally, this was a battle of the league’s top two scorers- Nikita Kucherov who came into the game with 90 points and Nathan MacKinnon who came in with 87. For several weeks now, these two have been matching each other point for point. But MacKinnon is having a bit of a dry spell lately. Let the Marquee Matchup begin!

Tonight’s game also featured the return to Amalie arena for number 79 Ross Colton. Colton will be forever embedded in Lightning lore as the man who scored the game winning (and only) goal of game five of the 2021 final against the Montreal Canadiens to win the Bolts their back-to-back cups. Thanks for the memories, Ross!

Marquee Matchup Lives up to the Hype

The Bolts looked fired up to be back at Amalie Arena tonight. They came on donning their new third jerseys and dominated play early on with nothing to show for it. At 15:08, the Avalanche drew first blood as Bowen Byram scored his seventh of the season. MacKinnon assisted on the play for his first point of the night.

Just over two minutes later, Kucherov returned the favor. He got a puck across to Brayden Point whose shot somehow found the back of the net for his 26th of the season. One assist for MacKinnon and one for Kucherov as their back and forth continues.

Then, 1:07 later, Kucherov would strike a go-ahead blow. The Lightning applied relentless pressure and Kucherov hammered one past Avalance netminder Justus Annunen for his 35th of the season. A 2-1 lead for the Lightning and a 2-point period for Nikita Kucherov.

The Dreaded Second Period

Second periods have been difficult for the Bolts all season. Tonight, was no exception as they were plagued by poor play in their defensive zone. Still, they managed to hold the Avalanche off the scoreboard for most of the period. There was a scary moment for Colorado superstar Nathan MacKinnon when a puck came crashing directly into his face. MacKinnon headed straight to his dressing room as the blood trickled down. He did return later that period.

Just past the fifteen-minute mark (right around the same time the Avalanche had opening the scoring in the first), Colorado fired a shot on Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy and his teammates thought he had the puck covered up under him. But Colorado knew better. Realizing there had been no whistle, Bowen Byram struck again pushing the puck through Vasilevskiy and into the back of the net.

Kucherov Steals the Show

The third period started off well enough for the Avalanche as Arturi Lehkonen scored just as an early power play was expiring to put his team up 3-2.

Then, Kucherov took over. It turns out that he did not have a two-point first period as previously thought! His assist on the Point goal was taken away since an Avalanche player touched the puck just before Point. But he would make up for that!

He found Steven Stamkos heading into the offensive zone all alone and got the puck to his captain. Stamkos buried it to tie the game just 20 seconds after Colorado had taken the lead. There was some concern worry that the play might have been offside, but the Avalanche did not challenge.

Four minutes later, Kucherov struck again! Some nice passing from Hedman, Stamkos, and Point gave Kucherov the perfect opening for his second of the game and 36th of the season.

The Bolts hung on for the rest of the game. There was mild frustration among the fans when the Lightning missed many glorious empty net chances. Finally, Anthony Cirelli sealed the deal for the boys in their new third jerseys as he fired it into the empty net with 35 seconds to go in regulation.

And off the ensuing faceoff, Nick Perbix found the empty net just six seconds after Cirelli’s goal for a 6-3 victory. The Lightning extend their home winning streak to eight games and their overall winning streak to three games.

In this Marquee Matchup, Nikita Kucherov definitely showed why he is still the league’s leading scorer.

Three Stars

1- Nikita Kucherov- two goals,1 assists (3 points)- up to 93 on the season

2- Steven Stamkos- one goal, one assist (2 points)

3- Brayden Point- one goal, one assist (2 points)

Up Next

The homestand continues as our in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, drop in for a visit. Note the 5pm start time.


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