Nikita Kucherov joined some pretty big hockey names on Monday night with his first-period tally against the Red Wings in Detroit.
The goal marked the sixth straight game with a goal to open the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning winger, making him just the fourth player in the last 30 years to accomplish the feat. He’s now among some notable names in Mario Lemieux, Keith Tkachuk and Kucherov’s GM, Steve Yzerman who have started the season in such a fashion.
"I'm not thinking about streaks," Kucherov said. "I just want to help our team. The wins we are getting now will help us a lot over the rest of the season."
Kucherov's strike made it a 2-0 score, following Tyler Johnson's opening goal.
First six games. Six goals.
— NHL (@NHL) 17 октября 2017 г.
After the Wings evened the score in the second period, Kucherov took things a step further, poking a third-period rebound past goalie Jimmy Howard, which stood as the game’s eventual winner in a 3-2 result. The score marked Kucherov’s third game-winner of the season, his fourth career multi-goal game against Detroit and 13th in 12 games facing the Red Wings.
With the two-goal outburst, he vaulted himself from fourth to second in the league with seven goals, only behind Alex Ovechkin, who opened the season on a blistering pace of his own with nine goals in six games for the Capitals. Kucherov also tied with Ovechkin for third in NHL scoring with 10 points.
"Right now, we're just trying to get him the puck as much as we can," Bolts captain Steven Stamkos said. "He's got so much confidence and he can score in so many different ways."
Currently in the second year of a three-year, $14.3 million deal and coming off a career-high 40-goal, 85-point season in 2016-17, expectations were high for Kucherov, though scoring at a goal-a-game clip is certainly welcome offensive pop to open the campaign. He’ll come back to Earth at some point—shooting at a 29% clip is tough to maintain over 82 games—but even then, he looks good to at least match his output from last season.
Also benefiting from Kucherov's hot start is Stamkos, who's assisted on five of Kucherov's goals so far, and the duo has been part of the same goal nine times already on the season. With a pair of helpers on Monday, Stamkos now has eight on the season and is tied for fifth in scoring with nine points.
The Lightning sit at 5-1-0 and atop the NHL after their fourth straight win.