Advertisement
  1. Lightning

Lightning loses Nikita Kucherov early with injury (w/video)

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) battle for the puck in the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) battle for the puck in the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
Published Jun. 14, 2015

TAMPA — The Lightning's hopes for a Game 5 victory suffered a serious blow five minutes into the game when RW Nikita Kucherov slammed his upper body into the post. He did not return.

"It's tough to lose a guy like that," D Anton Stralman said. "He's definitely one of the guys you want on the ice."

The play started behind the net when Chicago G Corey Crawford tried to clear the puck. But Kucherov intercepted it and jetted toward the goal, where Crawford tripped him up. Kucherov appeared to hit his right shoulder on the post and skated slowly as he tried to make his way to the bench. He immediately went to the locker room and wasn't seen on the bench the rest of the game.

Coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on Kucherov's health after the game.

Kucherov has been one of the Lightning's breakout players on the heralded "Triplets" line. He entered Saturday second in the league in postseason points (22) and tied for second in goals (10), behind only linemate Tyler Johnson.

"Hopefully Kuch is in there for Game 6," said LW Jonathan Drouin, who spent some time in Kucherov's spot. "If he's not, it's not one guy that makes that line, really. It's going to be the team that has to pick it up."

Captain Steven Stamkos spent most of the second and third periods as Kucherov's replacement on the "Triplets" line.

LINING UP: Drouin was in the lineup for his second game of the series and fifth of the postseason as the Lightning went with 12 forwards and six defensemen, instead of 11 and seven.

Drouin began on the fourth line with C Brian Boyle and RW Brenden Morrow but spent some time with Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat when Kucherov left the game. He also joined the top power-play unit.

Drouin, the third overall pick from the 2013 draft, missed on a chance to stop Chicago's second goal. He was in front of the net when RW Kris Versteeg's shot hit G Ben Bishop's skate, but Drouin couldn't get the rebound or prevent C Antoine Vermette from getting it. Vermette knocked in the go-ahead goal.

"It just got a far pad and came right behind me," said Drouin, who was minus-1 in 10:46 of ice time. "That's definitely a play you want to look back at. Just kind of a luck play off the far pad."

D Nikita Nesterov, C Vladislav Namestnikov and C Jonathan Marchessault were among the healthy scratches.

BON VOYAGE: The fan group Sticks of Fire is organizing a 1 p.m. sendoff today at the Tampa International Jet Center for the Lightning before it leaves for Game 6 in Chicago. The team is scheduled to depart at 2 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Every game has been decided by one goal, and no team has taken a two-goal lead. … C Valtteri Filppula scored his fourth goal of the postseason, with Stralman and D Jason Garrison registering assists. … After being outshot 14-5 in the first period, the Lightning finished with a 32-29 edge in shots. … Former Bucs star Mike Alstott, Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and ESPN commentator Dick Vitale were among those in attendance.