TAMPA — The first question Jon Cooper fielded after the Lightning’s 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was about the health of injured forward Nikita Kucherov.
Not surprisingly, Cooper didn’t have much to say.
“I don’t have an update on [Kucherov],” he explained. “I thought he was going to come back, and then I got word he wasn’t coming back. He’ll be evaluated probably tonight and tomorrow.”
Kucherov, who came into tonight’s contest sitting second in playoff scoring with 22 points, was injured early in the first period after crashing into Corey Crawford’s net:
The 21-year-old was in significant pain skating off and, despite Cooper’s optimism, didn’t return to play. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to suit up for Monday’s Game 6 in Chicago, where the Lightning will face elimination for the first time this series.
With 10 goals through 25 games — that after scoring 29 during the regular season — it’s clear Kucherov is a vital contributor for a Lightning team that, suddenly, is struggling to find the back of the net.
It’s something Cooper discussed in his postgame address.
“He’s a point-per-game guy in the playoffs and a big part of our offense,” Cooper said. “In a series where goals are at a premium, it’s tough when you lose one of your guys.”