FILE PHOTO: Apr 10, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) works out prior to game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
As if trying to climb out of an 0-2 hole weren’t already difficult enough, the Tampa Bay Lightning may be forced to try to save their season without the NHL’s leading scorer.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov will have a hearing Saturday with the NHL’s department of player safety to discuss his hit on Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara during Tampa Bay’s 5-1 home loss on Friday.
The incident occurred with 4:26 remaining in the game and the score already 5-1, with Kucherov drawing a minor penalty for tripping, a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.
Per the NHL, boarding is the grounds on which the league is considering additional discipline — which could include a suspension. However, as NHL.com pointed out, “The department of player safety retains the right to make adjustments to the infraction upon review.”
Kucherov, 25, led all players this season with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) and is considered the favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.
The Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins, and they finished with 30 more points than Columbus, the Eastern Conference’s second wild card. While the 62 wins and 128 points had people talking about the Lightning as one of the great all-time regular-season teams, the start to Tampa Bay’s postseason has been nothing short of mind-boggling.
After blowing a three-goal lead and losing Game 1 at home 4-3 on Wednesday, the Lightning came out on their heels Friday. The Blue Jackets led 3-0 after two periods and cruised from there. Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
Kucherov did not score a point in the series’ first two games.
—Field Level Media