Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning’s Brayden Point provides remarkable goal-scoring consistency

Point has a knack for finding the net (he leads the league in goals scored this postseason), but his grit can easily go overlooked.
Lightning center Brayden Point battles to move the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy during the first period of Game 3 on Thursday night.
Lightning center Brayden Point battles to move the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy during the first period of Game 3 on Thursday night. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 18
Updated Jun. 18

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Brayden Point has shown this postseason that he can score many ways, even while getting cross checked from behind in front of the net.

Point’s winning goal in the Lightning’s Game 3 victory over the Islanders on Thursday night wasn’t his prettiest, but it was still one of his most impressive.

His timing was impeccable, scoring shortly after the Islanders had tied the semifinal and injected life into the Nassau Coliseum late in the second period. Point and his fellow first-team, power-play unit members had been on the ice for the entire two-minute man advantage and Point was fighting for position in front of the net as Victor Hedman was about to put a puck on goal.

The rebound kicked out to Point, who swung his stick toward the net as he was falling forward, pushed from behind by Islanders center Casey Cizikas. Through traffic and with help from a Anthony Cirelli screen in the crease, Point found a hole and the back of the net with 14.7 seconds left in the second period.

The score gave Point goals in six straight playoff games, something no player has done in 15 years. Point leads all scorers with 11 goals this postseason (in 14 games) and has three game-winning playoff goals, tied for most with the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock and Vegas’ Max Pacioretty.

Lightning center Brayden Point (21) is back to help defend along with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) with Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) in the crease.
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) is back to help defend along with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) with Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) in the crease. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“It’s quite impressive the way he does it every single night,” Lightning forward Yanni Gourde said. “He worked so hard and his line has so much chemistry together, they work so well together. Pointer has been very good for us all around the ice. ... It gives the team a boost every time he scores, and you know he’s going to show up every single night, and he’s gonna bring you a compete level as high as he can. And that’s leadership.”

After scoring a league-high 14 goals last postseason on the way to a Stanley Cup, Point has 33 goals in 58 career postseason games. Point’s career .57 goals per game average in the postseason puts him in elite company, just behind the likes of playoff legends like Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Cam Neely and Wayne Gretzky.

“He just gets better and better,” said Lightning forward Blake Coleman. “The spotlight’s never too big for him. He seems to step up to whatever the challenge is, whatever the series is he has a way of adjusting his game to be successful in a series. Against the Islanders, it’s more of a competitive physical series and he has no problem playing in that kind of game and that style of game because he competes as well. So it just seems like there’s no stage too big for Brayden.”

Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with center Steven Stamkos (91) and right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after his second-period goal.
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with center Steven Stamkos (91) and right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after his second-period goal. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

This postseason, Point has played well through some physical series. His game isn’t necessarily made for that. At 5-foot-10, 166 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy. But you can’t stop what you can’t catch, and Point’s speed and stick-handling makes him one of the league’s most dangerous goal scorers. His ability to play in some of the dirty areas — whether it’s battling for a puck in the corners or holding his own in front of the net — sometimes goes overlooked.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Point worked hard coming up on his skating and his balance. His hockey sense is innate. It’s how Point and Nikita Kucherov seemingly know where the other is at all times. It’s the ability to anticipate and make plays at a high rate of speed. And Cooper said the last intangible was Point learning how to play physically.

“You have to have grit,” Cooper said. “You have to be able to go to areas to make these things happen; if you’re not willing to go there, you’re not going to have this kind of success.”

• • •

Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.