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Nikita Kucherov in rare company with third 30-goal season

Lightning wing emerges from slump with a goal in three straight to give him 30 on season
Lightnng scoring star Nikita Kucherov celebrates after his first goal in 12 games Thursday night DIRK SHAD | Times
Lightnng scoring star Nikita Kucherov celebrates after his first goal in 12 games Thursday night DIRK SHAD | Times
Published Feb. 13, 2018

Remember when Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov was in a slump?

Me neither.

Kucherov snapped out of his 11-game goal drought by scoring a goal in each of his last three games, including one in Monday's 4-3 loss to the Leafs in Toronto.

That sealed Kucherov's third straight 30-goal season, becoming only the fourth Lightning player to complete that feat (joining Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis).

Kucherov maintained he didn't lose his mojo during his tough stretch. He just had to stick with it.

"Even though I wasn't scoring, the line I played with, we still had a lot of chances," Kucherov said. "I had my confidence, it never went away. If I had 20 assists, would we be talking about confidence?"

A key for Kucherov was being more aggressive with a shoot-first mentality. He has 21 combined shots the last four games, starting with a 14-attempt game Monday in Edmonton. Kucherov is the first NHL player to 70 points this season.

"Just style of the games," Kucherov said. "That game, fortunately for me I had some good chances. Some other games, I was like a playmaker, passing to guys. Just one of those things."


Alex Killorn continued his hot stretch with another goal Monday against Toronto, pouncing on a rebound off a rush.

After scoring just five goals in his first 50 games, Killorn has five in his last six (10 points).  Killorn turnaround was sparked by a video session where he watched clips of his greatest hits from previous seasons. He wanted to get back to his power forward game, realizing he scored most of his goals from inside the hashmarks.

"I had a tough stretch where things weren't really going my way, and that's just the ebbs and flows of the season," Killorn said. "Now it seems like the puck is following me. It's nice. I want to keep this going."


You can't read too much into what scouts are at what games during this silly season, with the trade deadline in less than two weeks. But for Lightning purposes, it's at least worth noting reps from the Senators, Rangers and Ducks were scheduled to be at Monday's game in Toronto.

Still think the Blue Jackets, which have scouted Tampa Bay heavily this season, could be a match when it comes to defenseman Jack Johnson, who requested a trade in November. The Lightning does like Johnson, a big left-shot who can move the puck.

Another under-the-radar name to look out for is Oilers wing Patrick Maroon. Maroon could bring some needed size (6-foot-3, 225) and thump up front for Tampa Bay. He's a pending UFA with a $2 million cap hit.

Maroon, who has 14 goals and 15 assists, is one of the favorite players coach Jon Cooper has coached, the two together in the NAHL (Texarkana + St. Louis).

Wouldn't be surprised if the Lightning hadn't kicked the tires on Maroon.


Victor Hedman played in his 600th career game Monday. "Time flies," he said… Tyler Johnson had a tough minus-3 Monday, but was oh-so-close to a couple goals with five shots (including a shorthanded breakaway)… Think you could see Matt Peca back in the lineup tonight in Buffalo (the team has an optional skate). This is not all on him, but it is worth noting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed four or more goals in eight of his last 13 games.


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