The Tampa Bay Lightning enjoyed great production from Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in Game 3, yet Nikita Kucherov – maybe the least known member of “The Triplets” – ended up being the hero.
He scored a rather stunning 6-5 OT goal against Henrik Lundqvist to give the Lightning a 2-1 series lead against the New York Rangers. Kucherov now has two overtime game-winners to his name.
How much of a chance did Lundqvist have on this?
Really, though, this game had about a dozen subplots that may take some time to unravel in greater detail.
For one thing, it’s easy to forget that the Rangers stormed off to a 2-0 lead. Steven Stamkos came up big early on in the game, however, barreling over Dan Boyle and helping to create a then-important 2-1 goal.
The first period was violent and action-packed, yet it merely set the table for even wilder events, as the second saw a memorable scoring barrage. The final frame of regulation was more about dramatic turns o events as the Rangers tied it up twice, most notably when Dan Boyle made it 5-5 with less than two minutes remaining in the third.
New York generated some dangerous early overtime chances, but ultimately Tampa Bay finished one stride ahead in probably the most frantic track meet of this postseason.
Again, a lot happened in this one, so let’s rattle a few of them off.
More than just a regular season success: Seriously, the work from Palat, Johnson and Kucherov has been stunning. They’ve generated more than half of Tampa Bay’s goals so far in the postseason.
Stamkos is seen: The Lightning’s captain was unusually physical in this one, delivering seven hits, including this giant impact.
Tough night for goalies: Look, there’s no doubt that Ben Bishop and especially Lundqvist made some big saves in this one. With things as wide-open as they were, netminders’ numbers tend to get shredded.
Still, Bishop’s play aroused some doubt in certain quarters while it’s becoming clear that the Lightning are one of the few teams that can at least claim that they have Hank’s number:
Bringing the pain: Matt Carle was unable to finish this game. Wunderkind Johnson was shaken up during a collision with his own linemate Palat. Many guys will fight through aches and pains from this one, but there’s likely to be a few extra ice packs in each locker room.
Leaky defense: The Rangers and Lightning both gave up two-goal leads in this one. Tampa Bay couldn’t put a game away with 5:55 left in the third period. It’s probably safe to say that both coaches will be busy breaking down the tape in this one.
(Alain Vigneault may feel more prone to losing his lunch over Game 3 than Jon Cooper, however.)