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Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov make a hot combination for Lightning

Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov have assisted each other on 15 goals this season, including two in Monday's win over New Jersey.
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) tries to score on New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (1) during the first period of an NHL game, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in Newark, N.J. [AP Photo/Julio Cortez]
Published Dec. 4, 2018

NEWARK—The Point-Kucherov connection was on point Monday night. First Brayden Point assisted Nikita Kucherov and then, because that's what kind linemates do, Kucherov assisted Point.

Given that the Lightning's two hottest players are on the same line, it's unsurprising that they have been connecting frequently. That doesn't make it not impressive, though.

"You watch (Kucherov), you watch Pointer, when you're on a roll like this, you just demand the puck," Steven Stamkos said after the 5-1 win over New Jersey. "It's fun to watch. I'm glad they're on our team."

Kucherov and Point combined for a seven-point night in the win. In all, the duo has assisted each other on 15 goals this season, of their combined 32 goals. Kucherov has had the assist in 11 of those, meaning he has set up half of Point's goals this season.

In addition to their two goals Monday night, that also includes Saturday's overtime winner against Florida. Kucherov made a nice play on that one, to freeze the goalie and set up Point off the opposite post.

"He's so easy to play with because he sees the ice so well," Point said. "He's got such good skill that he can get the puck to you in good spots. I'm just trying to get the holes for him, and get the open ice for him, because he's going to find you. He's that good."

On Monday, Kucherov scored the first goal of the game. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh avoided a check and flipped the puck to Point, who carried it up the ice with Kucherov joining him at the blue line. Point slid the puck over to Kucherov, who wristed it just inside the right post.

They swapped roles on the power play in the final minute of the period. Defenseman Victor Hedman passed to Kucherov at the right dot (his happy spot). Kucherov held the puck for a few seconds as Yanni Gourde cleared Ben Lovejoy out from in front of the net, then passed to Point in the slot. Point settled the puck and sent it over Keith Kinkaid's stick to put the Lightning up 2-0.

"He's a speedy player," Kucherov said of Point. "It's a lot of fun playing with him. You always know he can go around the guys, you just have to find an open area and get him there."

With two players who don't often talk about themselves, it figures that they each credit the other. It's only other players – Stamkos, for example – who praise both in the same breath. The thing is, though, neither of them is wrong. Both are just that good, which makes for an entertaining combination.

"They're just always around it, and doing all the right things," coach Jon Cooper said. "And to top it off, the skill and compete and all that. As a group (with third linemate Tyler Johnson), they're playing well and they're being rewarded."

Kucherov and Point have been hot even when they aren't necessarily on the scoresheet together. In the last 10 games, Kucherov has 23 points (and a point-streak) and Point has 17.

The pair also joined forces on Steven Stamkos' power-play goal 20 seconds into the third period. That one, however, looked like Stamkos may have rescued a broken play. Kucherov passed to Point as the entered the zone and Point made a behind-the-back pass from the wall that ended up in open ice, Stamkos picked it up and scored from the far circle.

Point said he wasn't sure what he was doing on that one and got lucky that it worked out.

"But that's what I'm talking about," Stamkos said. "When you're hot like that, you get some bounces because you're playing the right way. Kuch got a point on that too. You take them when you can get them."

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