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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
Published Apr. 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.


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) waits his turn during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay doesn’t have many roster spots available, but the positions within the lineup are still taking shape.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jimmy Huntington (47) takes a bite out of his stick blade while taking with goaltending coach Frantz Jean on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay has had success with undrafted players like Tyler Johnson and Alex Barre-Boulet.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning's Cory Conacher (89) looks to pass the puck with Carolina Hurricanes' Clark Bishop (64) reaching in during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, in Raleigh, N.C, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. KARL B DEBLAKER  |  AP
    Tampa Bay falls into the same penalty trap as first game: way too many. Preseason isn’t off to an ideal start.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning players on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum on September 13, 2019 in Brandon, FL. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s training camp roster is reduced by six.
  5. Cal Foote (left) and his brother Nolan will play for the Lightning in a preseason game tonight. It's a moment they've long anticipated. Tampa Bay Times
    The brothers will play together as Nolan gets his first preseason game on Wednesday.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) looks for an open teammate during the first day of HL hockey training camp Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Brandon, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn will make their Lightning debuts against Carolina on Wednesday night.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning center Mitchell Stephens (67) defends against Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) who challenges in the Tampa Bay zone during the first period of the preseason game on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    There were flashes of promise, like good play from Mitchell Stephens, but not a great showing for Tampa Bay
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper gives direction during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    In the first four games of the preseason, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wants to see how prospects have developed.
  9. At 23 years old, Tampa Bay forward Brayden Point already has 91 career NHL goals, including 41 last season. Now that his entry level contract has expired, Point is looking for a big payday but the Lightning has salary cap issues. CHRIS O'MEARA | AP Photo CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    John Romano: History says restricted free agents almost always stay put, and there’s too much at stake for Tampa Bay to allow this impasse to go on.
  10. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.