Kucherov Returns as Lightning Put out Flames 4-1

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

In one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning played one of their most complete games of the season. Tampa Bay took down a very good Calgary Flames team on home ice 4-1.

Calgary came into Thursday’s game with the best win percentage in the pacific division and they came ready to play after a lopsided defeat on Tuesday in South Florida against the Panthers.

Let’s break down what happened.

1. Kucherov Returns

Nikita Kucherov made his return to the Lightning lineup after missing the last three months with a lower body injury. Kucherov looked healthy and confident on the ice and had his share of chances throughout the night. Kucherov recorded two assists in 17:27 of ice time and earned first star of the game honors for his efforts.

2. Second Period Breakthrough

After a very competitive first period saw the Lightning constantly knocking on the door, Tampa kept knocking even harder in the second. Tampa Bay brought the pressure throughout the period and finally found the back of the net just past the halfway point of the period. The second contained plenty of end-to-end action and fittingly, the only goal of the period was scored on the rush. Corey Perry finished off a beautiful pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who had just received an equally great pass from Victor Hedman to fuel the rush.

3. Kucherov’s Playmaking

Nikita Kucherov tallied a pair of assists in his first game back, and they were both beauties. His vision and playmaking ability are among the absolute best in the NHL. On his first assist he sold a one-time shot and fired a slap-pass to a wide-open Brayden Point at the side of the net. Point had all night to finish the play after the Calgary netminder Dan Vladar bit hard on the fake. Kucherov had another great feed on the next goal after winning a puck battle behind the net against 6’6 defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Kucherov threaded a twisting pass toward the front of the net to find Ondrej Palat for a composed finish.

4. Pulling Away in the Third

After ending two periods of play up just 1-0, the Lightning pulled away from Calgary with three goals in the third period. Tampa Bay piled on with two goals in 14 seconds to make it 4-0. The Lightning offense had to be somewhat frustrated after generating tons of chances in the first two periods and having little to show for it. They were well rewarded for their efforts with the third period outburst.

5. Turning up the Temperature

The Lightning have not seen the Flames since February 2020. You wouldn’t know it by the way things went down in this one. There were 56 total penalty minutes including a match penalty and three fights. One observation from all the rough stuff was how the members of the newly formed “fourth” line stood up for one another. Mathieu Joseph and Boris Katchouk both dropped the gloves after they did not like hits that were delivered to one another in the first and third periods. Katchouk notably went after Calgary’s Brad Richardson in the third period after Richardson hit Joseph up high and would eventually receive a match penalty for the hit.

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