Steven Stamkos is one of the top players in the league, so it goes without saying that he’s a big part of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, he’s far from the only major reason the Lightning are leading the Eastern Conference. In fact, an argument can be made that Stamkos hasn’t even been their best forward this season despite the fact that he’s on pace to score 42 goals.
Right now the Lightning’s best line is one that doesn’t include Stamkos at all: The trio of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov.
“Since that line has been put together, they have done some magical things,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Tribune. “And Johnny and Palat have played together coming up through the minors and into the NHL and been a mainstay together. For Kooch to fall in, it’s almost like he was the missing piece that they needed. They are kind of that great mix of speed, skill, hockey sense, and they are playing the game the right way and being rewarded for it.”
That line includes the Lightning’s scoring leader, Johnson, who has 13 goals and 40 points in 38 contests. Meanwhile Kucherov is just shy of Stamkos’ totals with 17 goals and 37 points in 39 contests. Additionally, while plus/minus ratings have to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s worth noting that Palat, Johnson, and Kucherov all have ratings above plus-20 while Stamkos is at minus-one.
What makes the Lightning’s situation particularly remarkable is that all four of those forwards are 24 years old or younger, so they could be the pillars of their franchise for quite a while. Given the potential that forwards Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov have, the future looks bright for Tampa Bay. Then again, the present has been kind to them too.
On Thursday night, the OHL game between the Niagara IceDogs and London Knights was cancelled after IceDogs goalie Tucker Tynan suffered a nasty injury to his leg.
The incident occurred in the opening minute of the second period when Tynan and a Knights player collided resulting in the 17-year-old suffering a nasty gash on his leg. Trainers and paramedics were on the ice for a while before they were able to take Tynan off the ice on a stretcher.
The young netminder was eventually taken to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Thankfully, the IceDogs were able to announce that Tynan’s surgery was a success and that he was in stable condition.
We would like to sincerely thank our training and medical staff, @GoLondonKnights training staff, the parademics onsite, and the medical staff of the Niagara Health System in St. Catharines for their immediate and precise attention in treating Tucker Tynan tonight.
“You never expect an injury like that to occur so your first reaction is just to hope and pray for the player that has been hurt,” said Knights Associate General Manager Rob Simpson, per Global News.
“Right now we are all praying for Tucker and hoping he can have a speedy recovery.”
Similar injuries have occurred in hockey before. Former Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk suffered a horrific gash to his throat in March of 1989. Also, Donald Audette’s wrist was cut by a skate in December of 2001, and Richard Zednik took a skate to the throat from a teammate while with the Florida Panthers. These injuries are all just so frightening and unfortunate.
There’s still no word on how long Tynan will need to stay in hospital or how long his recovery will be, but it’s just encouraging to hear that he’s doing better.
1. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks probably had no business winning this game. They were badly outshot, outplayed, and needed to rely on their goalie to keep them in it. Fortunately for the Canucks, Markstrom was up to the challenge and played one of the best games of his career as he stopped all 43 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime win. He held on just long enough for Elias Pettersson to score the game-winning goal thanks to a fluky assist from an unlikely source. Read all about it here.
2. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers. The Rangers spoiled Bob Boughner’s San Jose coaching debut with a 6-3 win that was highlighted by another huge game for Panarin. He scored three goals and added an assist in the win to continue his incredible 2019-20 performance. His first year with the Rangers has been everything the team could have hoped for as he is now up to 18 goals and 41 total points in 31 games. The Sharks, meanwhile, are now 0-5-1 in their previous six games.
3. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres. His point streak is now up to 15 consecutive games thanks to a two-goal effort in a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. It is the second game in a row that Eichel has scored a pair of goals as he continues to climb the NHL’s scoring leaderboard. He is unstoppable right now and trying to carry the Sabres to a playoff spot all by himself.
Other notable performances from Thursday
The Detroit Red Wings’ losing streak has finally come to an end. They were winners for the first time since Nov. 12 thanks to a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets to snap what had been a 12-game losing streak. Robby Fabbri continued his strong play since joining the team with a pair of goals while Filip Zadina recorded three points.
The Calgary Flames improved to a perfect 7-0-0 under new coach Geoff Ward thanks to a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Johnny Gaudreau scored a pair of goals as part of a three-goal third period for the Flames to get the win.
Tristan Jarry recorded his third shutout in his past four starts for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they were 1-0 winners over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus coach John Tortorella had no words for his team’s lackluster performance. Read about it here.
Clayton Keller scored a pair of goals for the Coyotes in their 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks to put them back in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
Panarin’s hat trick on Thursday was the third of his career, all of them coming with different teams. [NHL PR]
Joe Thornton played in career game No. 1,600 on Thursday, making him and Patrick Marleau the first set of teammates to have 1,600 games played in their careers. [NHL PR]
The Islanders’ points percentage of .733 is the second highest in franchise history through the first 31 games of a season. [NHL PR]
Buffalo Sabres 4, Nashville Predators 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Boston Bruins 2
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 1, Columbus Blue Jackets 0 (OT)
Detroit Red Wings 5, Winnipeg Jets 2
St. Louis Blues 4, Vegas Golden Knights 2
Minnesota Wild 6, Edmonton Oilers 5
Calgary Flames 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
Arizona Coyotes 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Los Angeles Kings 2, Anaheim Ducks 1
Vancouver Canucks 1, Carolina Hurricanes 0 (OT)
New York Rangers 6, San Jose Sharks 3
Sometimes you need a little bit of luck to win in the NHL.
The Vancouver Canucks received a healthy dose of it on Thursday night.
They were 1-0 winners against the Carolina Hurricanes thanks to an incredible goaltending performance from Jacob Markstrom and an overtime goal from emerging superstar Elias Pettersson. Markstrom’s performance gave them a chance, but it was a stroke of good fortune and a filthy finish from Pettersson that put them in the win column.
While the stat sheet will officially give the assist on Pettersson’s goal to Brock Boeser, the real assist came from an abandoned stick that previously belonged to Carolina’s Jaccob Slavin. As the Canucks controlled play in the offensive zone, Slavin lost his stick in a battle for the puck with Boeser.
It would prove to be costly for the Hurricanes because, well, watch for yourself in the video above.
Maybe Pettersson still ends up collecting the puck and scores the winner anyway if that stick isn’t sitting there. But Slavin’s stick sitting in the exact perfect spot made it significantly easier for him to score the winner.