As the marathon that is the NHL regular season comes to an end, the Lightning have accomplished almost everything you can imagine. One thing left on the agenda, however, is to reach 60 wins. A number only accomplished by two other teams in NHL history. A number that would put them in a truly elite club. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators have only pride left to play for after an abysmal season on and off the ice.
Tampa headed into Ottawa for their fourth and final meeting of the season holding a 2-1 lead in the season series. While the Lightning have been on a historically good run, Ottawa has almost equally as bad. Whether its on the ice or off the ice, the Senators can’t seem to catch a break and they definitely didn’t get one from Tampa Bay.
First period battle
The first period began with ten minutes of back-and-forth play with chances at both ends of the ice. Ottawa got the first chance on the power play when Tyler Johnson was called for hooking. Tampa’s dominance on the penalty kill continued, and after the successful penalty kill, the line of Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov carried that momentum and turned it into the first goal of the night. Gourde tapped one in on a nearly empty net off of an incredible pass by Kucherov. In the final minutes of the period, Ottawa tied it at one as Brady Tkachuk blasted one by Vasilevskiy short side.
Gourde, Point, Kucherov keep it going
The Point and Kucherov combo has been deadly all season for the Lightning. Against Ottawa, Gourde took Johnson’s place on that line and his forecheck really took it to another level. Every time these three were on the ice together, the Senators could not get out of their zone. Their dominance resulted in two second period goals. The first came from a blast from the point by Mikhail Sergachev. The second came when Gourde found Point in the slot and Point tucked it in through Anderson’s five hole to make it 3-1 Lightning.
Tampa Bay reaches their 60th win
Ottawa really tried to claw back into this one, coming out of the gates with renewed energy. Eventually, that led to a big-time tilt between Cameron Gaunce and Zach Smith. Ottawa ultimately scored on the power play after Gaunce was awarded a slashing penalty on top of the five for fighting. A 3-2 score was as close as Ottawa would get as Tampa Bay turned on the burners after that goal.
Not even a minute after the Sens’ power play goal, Gourde got his second of the game. He slipped behind the defense and Sergachev hit him in stride. Gourde blasted one in on Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, who got a piece of it, but not enough. The final goal came on a beautiful passing sequence during a 3-on-2 rush. Ondrej Palat passed to Mathieu Joseph, who found Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain then wristed one in for his 42nd goal of the year, making the final score 5-2.
Tampa Bay now has 60 wins on the season, making them one of only three teams in NHL history to do so, joining the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens and the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. Tampa is also the only team in the salary cap era to reach 60 victories. With a three-point night, Kucherov is now only two points away from tying the record for most points by a Russian-born player. This team is carving their name in the record books and are only three wins away from breaking the NHL record for most wins in a season.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Yanni Gourde – Two goals and one assist
2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov – Three assists
3rd Star: Mikhail Sergachev – One goal and one assist
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