TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov played the final six games of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run with a cracked rib that had knocked him out of Game 6 of the semifinal round, his agent Dan Milstein confirmed Friday.
The star forward, who led all skaters with 32 postseason points after missing the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery, was clearly playing through pain down the stretch but grinded through the final series.
Kucherov was injured on his first shift of Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum, crumbling to the ice after Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield cross-checked him from behind in the first period of the Lightning’s 3-2 overtime loss.
He missed the rest of that game but returned for the Game 7 win over the Islanders and recorded five points in the final against the Canadiens (including two goals and an assist in Game 1) while averaging 19:06 of ice time.
Kucherov wore additional protection to absorb hits to his rib area, received multiple injections and even traveled back to Tampa from Montreal between Games 3 and 4 of the final to receive additional medical care.
“He played through some pretty grueling injuries here in the in the postseason,” Lightning forward Blake Coleman said following the Lightning’s Game 5 win over Montreal. “And that’s something that’s not skill. That’s all heart.”
Several days after his injury, Kucherov played it off as if it didn’t exist. “There was no injury. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said when asked about it.
Last postseason, Kucherov tweaked his groin in the Lightning’s first-round series against Columbus and played through it, leading all postseason scorers with 34 points, but it led to the hip injury that needed offseason surgery to correct. After leading the league in postseason scoring again this year, he joined Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiux as the only players to do so in consecutive seasons.
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