The Tampa Bay Lightning were forced to fight without their top scorer on Saturday when Nikita Kucherov left the game in the second period after a shot from the top of the foot.
Kucherov went into the closet just after the blocked shot. The 26-year-old forward will not return to the bench at the beginning of the third period, before the team officially announce him out for the remainder of the competition during the final frame.
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His final shift lasted only 19 seconds due to injury, leaving the ice last at 10:29 of the second period. The Russian superstar allowed the score to be cut to one before Lightning gave up the back-to-back scoring to open the third. Down 3-1, Tampa Bay’s Jan Rutta managed to get one back, but T.J. Oshie extended the lead to two goals, with 7:41 remaining. The Caps added an empty gap to make the final score 5-2.
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This is not the first time Kuserov has had to lose time due to an injury in the 2019-20 season. He lost a game with an upper body injury after a hit by Brayden Schenn forced him out of the fight against St. Louis Blues on November 19th.
The 2019 Hart Trophy winner leads the team with 34 points in 10 goals and 24 assists this season, including a secondary assist on Lightning’s first goal of the competition, a Brayden Point 5:45 in the second period.
Despite leading the team, Kuserov is far from the pace to reach high career numbers last season (41 goals and 87 assists). He has just 27 goals and 65 assists this season. From the team’s point of view, Tampa Bay looks much less intimidated so far at 16-12-3 than 128 points (62-16-4) last season.
If Kucherov loses more time, the Lightning – sitting fourth in the Atlantic Division – could face even more problems as January approaches.