TAMPA – When Nikita Kucherov slipped out of control with his right hand and attempted to maneuver around Devon Toyos late in the third inning Monday at the Amalie Arena, the Avalanche defender checked Kucherov from behind. He sent lightning forward, causing his right side to be crushed against the boards.
For a few moments, Kucherov remained on the ice, but crouched back to the bench and eventually exited the tunnel. Lightning actually lost Nick Paul for a few minutes in the first period. They managed without a Brayden Point-scratch after returning for the first two games of the series. But when Kucherov did not return, the injury became a cause for concern after Lightning’s 6-2 victory over avalanche in Game 3.
“It’s a game, it’s a contact game, but the players know what they’re doing,” Lightning coach John Cooper said when asked about the blow to Kucherov. “Smart and savvy players know what they are doing with their stick. And we have all seen it.”
Cooper did not provide updates on any of the injured players after the match, saying he would get those statuses on Tuesday. Paul’s last bout in the first period ended with an awkward twisting of his leg after an injury along the boards, forcing him off the ice and work with a coach. He got out of the tunnel and was no longer in the frame.
Paul’s first turn in the second period, though, ended with his arms raised in the air and his chest pushed toward the audience – a celebration of his shot that extended Lightning’s 3-1 lead less than three minutes into the period. He came back on the first turn of his streak in the second, won the match and then deposited a pass from Ross Colton into the net.
“I came back, a nice little turn for us, and he found me in the hatch and ended up in the back of the net,” Paul said.
Paul said he had no doubts he would be back, adding that he “feels good” and “will definitely come back.” Corey Berry was also shocked at some point after hitting the panels behind the net, staying behind and attacking goalkeeper Darcy Quimper before skating to the bench and being looked at by the coaches.
He eventually came back, scoring from a powerhouse re-inherited with Point Out. But with the Lightning streaks already capricious with Point’s absence, their first win in the Stanley Cup Final came at a cost — especially if Kucherov wasted time.
“It’s clear that the players messed up,” said Stamkos when asked about Paul’s injury, Odeh and his goal. “Especially at this time of year.”
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Maroun’s offensive grace
Pat Marron had already collected his first point since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final when he got a pass from Kucherov and sprinted toward the goal line. This came in Lightning’s first goal, when they tied the avalanche at one point before turning that into a three.
But this time, Marron found himself with Kucherov and Stephen Stamkos – two members of Lightning’s top team – due to a cruel penalty kick he had taken two minutes earlier. Running from the penalty area, Marron dribbled the ice and smashed the ball past Comber’s short net to give Lightning a 5-2 lead in the second half.
Maron’s tally led to a goalkeeper change while securing his first multi-point game since February 23 against Edmonton.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored its first win in the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche.
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