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Kucherov’s Hat Trick Propels Bolts In Playoff Standings

The Tampa Bay Lightning (35-29-9) started the night five points behind the Boston Bruins (38-30-6), who hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With ten games remaining and the Lightning just outside of the playoffs, Thursday night’s game in Boston against the Bruins was one of the biggest games of the season. The Lightning had veteran goalie Peter Budaj in net for his third start as a Bolt, while Nikita Kucherov proved to be highly-involved in the action.

The first period had plenty of action, but no scoring, as Tampa Bay recorded ten shots on goal and Boston had nine.

Heading into the second, however, play started to pick up. Tampa Bay allowed the game’s first goal as Boston’s David Pastrnak (32) scored a power play goal, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Spooner.

Less than a minute later, Brayden Point (13) got a rebound goal past Boston goalkeeper, Tuukka Rask. That goal tied the game and didn’t allow the Bruins to gain more momentum going forward.

At the 7:50 mark in the second period, the Bruins took the lead again, as Zdeno Chara (8) put a shorthanded goal past Budaj. It was Boston’s 10th shorthanded goal of the season. But just 24 seconds after the Chara goal, Kucherov (35) and the Bolts responded with a power play goal, tying the game at two.

Later in the second, Boston got their final goal of the game as Riley Nash (5) put away a goal on a wide-open left side of the net. Budaj had a solid game, but was left for dead on that goal.

Despite falling behind, the Lightning again answered back quickly. Anton Stralman (3) slapped a nice goal into the upper corner over Rask’s shoulder, tying the game 3-3 and completely shifting momentum into the Bolts’ corner.

Finally heading into the third period, Tampa Bay opened up the game.

At the 4:12 mark of the final period, Jonathan Drouin (18) sniped a great shot past Rask, giving the Lightning their first lead of the game at 4-3.

Then came Kucherov (36), who notched his second power play goal of the game. That goal put the Bolts up 5-3 and pushed the Bruins into a panic mode. Only about eight minutes after that goal, Kucherov (37) again hit the back of the net with Rask pulled for an extra attacker.

Those three unanswered third period goals resulted in a 6-3 victory, putting the Lightning only three points out of a wild card spot with nine games remaining on their schedule.

The Lightning conclude a back-to-back set with a matchup in Detroit against the Red Wings on Friday night. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.

My Three Stars of the Game:

3 – Peter Budaj

Budaj ended with 28 saves in his third start with the team.

2- Jonathan Drouin

Drouin scored a fantastic goal to put the Lightning in the lead for the first time and also ended with two assists.

1 – Nikita Kucherov

Kucherov got his third hat-trick this month.

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