It wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning to be staring a 2-0 series deficit in the face after a 5-1 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 2. Since taking a 3-0 lead into the second period of Game 1, Columbus has outscored the Lightning 9-1 in the ensuing five periods of play. Thanks to an ill-advised boarding incident, Tampa Bay will be without one of their superstars for Game 3.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced earlier today the suspension of Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov. As a result, he’ll miss Sunday’s crucial Game 3 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus thanks to this boarding penalty.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov has been suspended for one game for Boarding Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara. https://t.co/VcQW77cQd1
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 13, 2019
The penalty occurred with 4:26 remaining in the third period, after the game was well out of the Lightning’s reach. Kucherov tripped Markus Nutivaara, and with Nutivaara still trying to recover and get back to his feet, Kucherov blasted him into the boards. The officials handed Kucherov two minutes for tripping, five minutes for boarding, and a game misconduct for his actions.
The sequence turned out to be a microcosm of the series for the Lightning so far. An image of a frustrated team and player with no answers for what the Blue Jackets have thrown at them. Kucherov’s hit was a dumb, reckless, dangerous penalty born out of frustration, and he simply lost control. This is the first suspension of Kucherov’s career, as his only previous supplemental discipline history includes one fine.
What it means for the Lightning going forward.
In the series’ first two games, Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point have been held pointless. With Kucherov, considered by many to be the Hart Trophy favorite, sitting out Game 3, a greater burden falls on Stamkos and Point to create some offense. They’ll also need their depth up front to help pick up the slack like they did in Game 1’s opening period.
Because of Kucherov’s suspension, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Danick Martel draw into the lineup for Game 3. In addition, some personnel changes, such as placing Ryan Callahan and Braydon Coburn into the lineup, could be in store as well.
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