Tampa Bay will put the longest winning streak in the NHL this season on the line Thursday night when it faces the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas.
The Lightning won their 11th game in a row Monday night at Colorado, 4-3, on Nikita Kucherov’s breakaway goal at 3:03 into overtime. The 11-game win streak broke the franchise record of 10 straight set last season and tied earlier this season. Tampa Bay is only the second franchise in NHL history with two double-digit win streaks in the same season, joining the Boston Bruins in both 1929-30 and 1970-71.
Kucherov, who leads the team in goals (29), assists (44) and points (73), stole the puck from Nathan MacKinnon and then raced down the ice and slipped the puck between the pads of Pavel Francouz for the win.
“He’s a smart player,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters of Kucherov. “Those guys had been out there for a little bit on Colorado. That’s Kuch thinking the game. That’s what he does. He just has an elite hockey IQ, but what’s more impressive is the jets he put on because we all know how fast MacKinnon is. So now not only does he have to go three-quarters of the ice at top speed, he’s got to make a play to put it in the net and he did them both.”
Besides breaking the franchise record for consecutive wins, the victory over the Avalanche was also the team’s sixth straight on the road, one off the team record for consecutive road wins.
“If you’re fluking your way to 11 straight, it’s not a recipe for success,” Cooper said. “But I’d say out of these 11, for the most part, it hasn’t been all perfect, but it’s been pretty darn good.”
Kucherov, for one, felt the Lightning could have played better at Colorado.
“I don’t think we played well today, but we still got a win,” Kucherov said. “We still have to improve a lot in our game because there’s still a lot of good teams ahead of us. I don’t think we had a good effort today, but (the) good thing is we’re winning games. That’s definitely a good thing.”
Vegas comes in with a three-game home winning streak after holding off Washington 3-2 on Monday afternoon. Max Pacioretty scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period as the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then held on after T.J. Oshie cut it to 3-2 with a pair goals in the span of 1:53 midway through the third period.
“That was a strong game by our group,” Pacioretty, who has scored six goals over the past six games, said. “You knew they were going to have that pushback and ultimately having three goals to lead on them was enough.”
Both teams were busy in the trade market this week and will have new faces making their debuts in Thursday’s contest. Tampa Bay on Sunday acquired forward Blake Coleman, who has 21 goals and 31 points, from New Jersey for forward Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s conditional 2020 first-round pick, while Vegas gave up a pair of second-round picks Wednesday to land veteran defenseman Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’ll be a nice addition to our group,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said of Martinez, who played on a pair of Stanley Cup winners with the Kings. “He’s a seasoned guy that has the ability to raise his level at the important times of the year, and we’re excited to have him.”
–Field Level Media