Nikita Kucherov and captain Steven Stamkos will aim to set franchise records on Friday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning conclude their regular season against the New York Islanders in Elmont, N.Y.
Kucherov scored a goal in his eighth straight game on Thursday after converting on the power play midway into the second period of Tampa Bay’s 5-2 setback to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The streak by the 2018-19 Hart Trophy recipient matches the longest such run for the Lightning since Brian Bradley set the mark in the team’s inaugural season of 1992-93.
Kucherov, who has 10 goals and 11 assists during the eight-game point streak, had an assist in Tampa Bay’s 4-1 win over New York on March 27.
Thursday’s loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Lightning (50-23-8, 108 points), who were unable to clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division and a first-round clash against the second-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tampa Bay can accomplish the feat on Friday with a win over New York, but a loss in any fashion would open the door for Boston (51-25-5, 107 points). The Bruins would claim third place should they find themselves even with the Lightning after their game in Toronto by virtue of the regulation wins tiebreaker.
“I look at this team and what they’ve given us all year and it’s been exceptional. Tonight was not one of those nights,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Thursday. “Is it to be expected? I don’t know … but we have better in us. There’s no doubt about that.”
“Be focused, be ready,” Lightning veteran forward Pat Maroon said of the team’s approach for Friday. “As an individual going into the playoffs, you want to feel good about yourself. You want to feel like you’re doing the right things and you’re playing the right way. As an individual, just go out and try as hard as you can.”
Stamkos set up a goal from both Kucherov and Corey Perry on Thursday to match Vincent Lecavalier with his franchise high-tying eighth consecutive multi-point performance. Stamkos, who has seven goals and 16 assists during his point streak, has one of each in two encounters against New York this season.
The Islanders (37-34-10, 84 points) completed a home-and-home sweep of the Washington Capitals on Thursday with a 5-1 romp.
Mathew Barzal set up three goals to boost his team-leading assist total to 43 this season for New York, which improved to 16-10-2 in its past 28 games. He scored his team’s lone goal in the first meeting with Tampa Bay.
The Islanders will look to salvage a sliver of revenge versus the Lightning, who eliminated them in each of the past two postseasons.
“We still want to win games and we can affect whatever it may be in the playoff race (even though) we’re out,” New York forward Brock Nelson said.
Nelson scored the Islanders’ lone goal in the most recent game versus Tampa Bay and added his team-leading 37th tally on Thursday.
–Field Level Media
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