Why Nikita Kucherov’s empty-netter Thursday is just the latest Lightning milestone

The last team to have three 40-goal scorers featured Mario Lemieux.
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), shown in this file photo against Montreal on Dec. 29, 2018, became Tampa Bay's third 40-goal scorer this season Thursday in Toronto. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), shown in this file photo against Montreal on Dec. 29, 2018, became Tampa Bay's third 40-goal scorer this season Thursday in Toronto. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published April 5

TORONTO — If 50 is the mark of an incredible goal scorer, then 40 is a great one.

Nikita Kucherov flipped the puck on net from the neutral zone for an empty-netter and his 40th goal in the Lightning’s 3-1 victory at Toronto Thursday. He became the third Lightning player to reach the 40-goal mark this season, joining Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

And in doing so, Kucherov added another milestone to this historic Lightning season.

Tampa Bay became the NHL’s first team with three 40-goal scorers since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins, and that trio was Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, and Petr Nedved. Two of those are household names more than two decades later.

Saturday’s regular-season finale against Boston (1 p.m., Fox Sports Sun) doesn’t mean anything for the Lightning in terms of standings, playoff position or first-round opponent (all Tampa Bay can do is watch Montreal, Carolina and Columbus duke it out for that role), but there are still a few things on the line:

The big one is the chance at a 62nd win, which would tie the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wiings’ NHL record. But what about individually?

Steven Stamkos set a career high of 97 points with a goal and an assist Thursday. Could he get three more on Saturday for his first 100-point season? A three-point night is not out of the realm of possibility for Stamkos. He’s done it 12 times this season, and three times in the last three weeks.

Andrei Vasilevskiy needs a win for his second 40-win season, and to do it in only 54 games ...

Kucherov needs one more point to tie the season record for most points by a Russian player. Alexander Mogilny racked up 127 points in 1992-93.


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