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Lightning ties NHL wins record with No. 62

Tampa Bay matches the mark set by the Detroit Red Wings in the final game of the regular season.
The Lightning's Cameron Gaunce (33) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Boston Bruins Saturday in Boston. [AP Photo/Michael Dwyer]
The Lightning's Cameron Gaunce (33) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Boston Bruins Saturday in Boston. [AP Photo/Michael Dwyer]
Published Apr. 6, 2019
Updated Apr. 7, 2019

BOSTON — Sixty-two wins was not the goal Saturday afternoon. That much was clear as soon as the Lightning emerged for warmups without Andrei Vasilevskiy in the lead.

Not that it mattered. Players repeatedly said the NHL wins record would come in the course of play. That’s what happened as the Lightning earned win No. 62.

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos capped their own record-setting regular seasons with two more milestones and were among six Lightning players to score goals in a 6-3 win over Boston.

Tampa Bay rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit to match the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings’ NHL record of 62 wins.

“We didn’t sit there are circle 62 as our number to hit,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But it is kinda cool that we actually got to that number.”

The Lightning scored four unanswered goals, the first coming on Erik Černák’s beautiful wrist shot from the slot to put the Lightning on the board early in the second period.

Stamkos won another faceoff on a penalty kill, igniting a shorthanded breakaway goal that he backhanded past Tuukka Rask to tie it and tally his 98th point, a new single-season career high.

Anthony Cirelli gave the Lightning the lead late in the second, with a shot from the top of the left circle that deflected off Bruins forward Danton Heinen’s stick to beat Rask. The goal was reviewed but officials determined Alex Killorn’s brief contact with Rask didn’t constitute goaltender interference.

Kucherov capped his NHL scoring title with a goal and an assist, finishing with 126 points and surpassing Alexander Mogilny’s mark for most points in an NHL season by a Russian player.

A minute into the third period, Kucherov scored what would be the decisive goal when he slid a casual-looking backhand past Rask for a beautiful finish that set off a wild celebration on the Lightning bench.

Kucherov assisted on Tyler Johnson’s empty-netter in the game’s final minute, something he called “a special moment.”

The Lightning sat four players (including Brayden Point) and rested Vasilevskiy. But not much has been able to slow down this team.

In the end, the Stanley Cup matters most, but the Lightning has been on a truly historic road to get to the playoffs.

Montreal of the 1970s dominates the conversation when it comes to the NHL’s best team ever. The 1976-77 Canadiens had 60 wins and would have had even more with the benefit of overtime. The Canadiens also didn’t have a salary cap. Those differences are what makes sports fun and GOATs debates.

There’s no argument that the Lightning is the best team in the last 20 years. Or that Kucherov had the most impressive season of last 20 years.

In just about every category Tampa Bay is the best or has the most since (fill in the blank). Those blanks are more than 20 years ago and many of them feature a team with Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.

They can add them to the ones they’ve already set this year, highlighted by Kucherov’s franchise single-season points record and Stamkos’ franchise career goal record.

At one point, Stamkos commented every game seemed to mark the Lightning being the fastest to this or the first to that. It’s been just that kind of season.

It’s over now, though.

Cooper called the step between games 82 and 83 a leap. Now it’s time for the Lightning to go after that ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark on Friday.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  3. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
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  4. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.
  5. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
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  8. Canada's Geneviève Lacasse (31) blocks a shot by United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [MICHAEL DWYER  |  AP]
    Teams representing the United States and Canada will play a 3-on-3 scrimmage as part of the festivities in St. Louis next week.
  9. TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: (Editor's Note: Image was digitally altered)  The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings fathers, brothers and mentors during the Kings' annual team trip at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images) [CASEY BROOKE LAWSON  |  NHLI via Getty Images]
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  10. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Alexander Volkov (92) before Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Also, Kings’ Jonathan Quick takes a Steven Stamkos one-timer up high.
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