The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens were arguably the most dominate team of all-time. If nothing else, they hold the record for most points in a single season at 132 (60-8-12). This season’s Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t on pace to beat them, but they’re close and that in itself is pretty remarkable.
After a 3-1 win against Carolina on Thursday, Tampa Bay is up to 34-8-2 this season. Those 70 points in 44 games puts them roughly on pace to finish with 130 points. That’s in spite of the fact that goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy missed a significant chunk of the first half with a foot injury and has therefore only started in 24 of Tampa Bay’s first 44 games.
When Vasilevskiy’s healthy, the Lightning have a very strong option in goal, but of course Tampa Bay’s biggest asset is its offense. Steven Stamkos has 23 goals and 49 points in 44 games and he’s a distant third in the Lightning’s scoring race. Brayden Point has 28 goals and 60 points while Nikita Kucherov has 21 goals and a league-leading 72 points.
The team the Lightning have managed to put together while navigating the cap waters has been outstanding. Although it is going to get more challenging soon as Kucherov’s $9.5 million annual cap hit will begin next season and Point is in the last season of his entry-level contract, so he’ll get a massive raise starting in 2019-20 as well. Those challenges emphasize how hard it is to stay at the top in the cap era and how important it is to capitalize when you have the chance.
The Lightning have had some good runs in recent years with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015 and trips to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018. They haven’t won the Cup since 2004 though and this season might be their best opportunity to do so.
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WASHINGTON 4 BOSTON 2
Alex Ovechkin led the charge with two goals for the Capitals. He’s up to 32 goals and 49 points in 43 games.
Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal. It was his 11th goal and 45th point in 42 games.
Braden Holtby saved 39 of 41 Bruins shots. He improved to 17-10-2 with a 2.86 GAA and .912 save percentage in 30 games.
At the other end of the ice, Jaroslav Halak stopped 18 of 21 shots. He has a 13-7-2 record, 2.39 GAA, and .924 save percentage in 24 contests.
David Krejci scored a power-play goal for Boston. He has eight goals and 34 points in 44 games.
TORONTO 4 NEW JERSEY 2
John Tavares scored two goals, including the game-winner, and registered an assist. Those were the 300th and 301st markers of his career. He’s also up to 29 goals and 50 points in 43 contests in 2018-19.
Mitchell Marner chipped in a goal and an assist for Toronto. He has 16 goals and 57 points in 43 games.
Michael Hutchinson stopped 27 of 29 Devils shots. Toronto has started him in four straight games due to the absence of Frederik Andersen and Garret Sparks. The Leafs are 2-2-0 over that span, which is solid under the circumstances.
Blake Coleman netted a goal for the Devils. It was his 14th marker and 22nd point in 43 games.
Keith Kinkaid saved 39 of 43 shots last night. He’s 13-13-6 with a 3.07 GAA and .899 save percentage in 33 contests.
NY ISLANDERS 4 NY RANGERS 3
Henrik Lundqvist kicked out 16 of just 20 shots. He’s struggled lately, allowing 15 goals over his last three games and being yanked twice over that span.
Robin Lehner stopped 27 of 30 shots to extend his winning streak to eight games. He’s up to 12-6-3 with a 2.22 GAA and .926 save percentage in 22 games.
Mathew Barzal scored a goal and registered two assists for the Islanders. That gives him 13 goals and 41 points in 42 games.
Anders Lee netted a goal and recorded an assist. The Islanders forward has 16 goals and 33 points in 42 contests.
Kevin Shattenkirk found the back of the net for the Rangers. The blueliner has two goals and 11 points in 35 games.
PHILADELPHIA 2 DALLAS 1
Jamie Benn scored the Stars’ lone goal. It was his 18th goal and 33rd point in 44 games.
James van Riemsdyk netted the game-winning goal and registered an assist. He’s up to seven goals and 16 points in 28 contests.
Travis Konecny accounted for the other Flyers goal. He has 11 goals and 24 points in 44 games.
Carter Hart stopped 37 of 38 Stars shots. He has a 3-4-1 record, 2.46 GAA, and .920 save percentage in eight starts.
Anton Khudobin turned aside 20 of 22 shots last night. He’s 8-8-2 with a 2.49 GAA and .923 save percentage in 20 contests.
COLUMBUS 4 NASHVILLE 3 (OT)
With this win, John Tortorella became the 19th coach in league history to get 600 victories. He’s been a sometimes controversial coach and has certainly had some extreme highs and lows from his championship with Tampa Bay in 2003-04 to his one-year stint with the Vancouver Canucks in 2013-14. There’s no question though that his career has had more ups than down.
Joonas Korpisalo stopped 32 of 35 shots for the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t a participant in the contest. Columbus was punishing him because Sergei failed to meet the team’s “expectations and value.” The Blue Jackets didn’t offer any specifics and it’s not yet clear if he’ll be back for Saturday’s game, though he probably will be.
Artemi Panarin scored two goals, including the overtime winner. He’s up to 15 goals and 47 points in 41 games.
Boone Jenner chipped in the Blue Jackets’ other two goals. He has eight goals and 20 points in 43 games.
Nick Bonino found the back of the net for Nashville. It was his ninth goal and 19th point in 45 contests.
Pekka Rinne was making his second start in as many nights and stopped 29 of 33 shots. He has a 17-10-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and .919 save percentage in 33 games.
TAMPA BAY 3 CAROLINA 1
Andrei Vasilevskiy won his second straight game by saving 26 of 27 shots. He’s up to 18-4-2 with a 2.49 GAA and .925 save percentage in 24 starts.
Brayden Point scored two goals, including the game-winner, and registered an assist. He has 28 goals and 60 points in 44 games this season.
Steven Stamkos assisted on two of Tampa Bay’s three goals. He has 23 goals and 49 points in 44 contests.
Carolina’s only goal was scored by Justin Williams. He’s on a three-game goal scoring streak and five-game point streak.
Petr Mrazek stopped 27 of 29 Lightning shots. He’s 8-9-2 with a 2.66 GAA and .902 save percentage in 19 starts.
ST. LOUIS 4 MONTREAL 1
Brendan Gallagher scored the Canadiens’ lone goal. It was his 17th goal and 26th point in 45 games.
Oskar Sundqvist netted the game-winning goal and registered an assist. He has eight goals and 12 points in 34 contests.
Ryan O'Reilly assisted on two of the Blues’ four markers. He has 16 goals and 42 points in 42 games.
Jordan Binnington stopped 28 of 29 Canadiens shots. The 25-year-old rookie is 2-0-0 with a 1.60 GAA and .937 save percentage in four games.
At the other end of the ice, Carey Price kicked out 26 of 30 shots. He dropped to 16-13-4 with a 2.75 GAA and .908 save percentage in 34 contests.
MINNESOTA 3 WINNIPEG 2
Jason Zucker scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner. He has 12 goals and 22 points in 42 games.
Minnesota’s other goal was scored by Jordan Greenway. It was his eighth goal and 14th point in 42 contests.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 26 of 28 shots Thursday night. He has a 17-14-3 record, 2.54 GAA, and .915 save percentage in 35 starts.
Brandon Tanev netted a goal for the Jets. That gives him nine goals and 17 points in 43 games.
Connor Hellebuyck saved 19 of 22 Wild shots. He has allowed at least three goals in four of his last five games.
EDMONTON 4 FLORIDA 3 (SO)
Connor McDavid scored two goals for the Oilers. He has 26 goals and 65 points in 43 contests. He also chipped in a goal in the shootout.
Darnell Nurse accounted for Edmonton’s other non-shootout goal and he registered an assist. It was his sixth goal and 22nd point in 44 games.
Frank Vatrano found the back of the net for the Panthers. He has 12 goals and 18 points in 41 games.
James Reimer stopped 21 of 24 shots in regulation time. He allowed two goals in two shootout rounds to miss out on the extra point.
Cam Talbot turned aside 27 of 30 shots prior to the skills competition. He was then perfect in the two shootout rounds.
ARIZONA 4 VANCOUVER 3 (OT)
Richard Panik was the hero for Arizona with two goals, including the overtime winner, and an assist. He has nine goals and 17 points in 40 games.
Vinnie Hinostroza assisted on two of the Coyotes’ four goals. That gives him four goals and 14 points in 33 contests.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 33 of 36 Canucks shots. He has a 7-11-3 record, 2.70 GAA, and .914 save percentage in 21 starts.
Sven Baertschi scored twice for Vancouver. He has six goals and 11 points in 16 games.
Jacob Markstrom saved 18 of 22 shots in his third straight loss. He has a 17-12-4 record, 2.88 GAA, and .906 save percentage in 33 starts.
SAN JOSE 3 VEGAS 2
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 of 27 Sharks shots. That ended his winning streak at five games.
Tomas Nosek scored a goal for the Golden Knights. He has six goals and 12 points in 42 contests.
Tomas Hertl scored a goal and registered an assist. The Sharks forward is up to 16 goals and 37 points in 41 games.
Melker Karlsson found the back of the net for San Jose. It was his seventh goal and 10th point in 46 games.
Martin Jones saved 36 of 38 shots to earn his sixth straight win. He improved to 20-8-4 with a 2.80 GAA and .901 save percentage in 33 starts.
OTTAWA 4 LOS ANGELES 1
Chris Tierney scored two goals, including the game-winner. He’s up to six goals and 29 points in 45 games.
Bobby Ryan also scored a goal for Ottawa. It was his ninth goal and 27th point in 42 contests.
Los Angeles’ goal was scored by Kyle Clifford. He has seven markers and eight points in 35 games.
Jonathan Quick stopped 23 of 26 Senators shots. He has a 7-11-2 record, 2.89 GAA, and .901 save percentage in 20 games.
Meanwhile, Anders Nilsson saved 33 of 34 shots. The recently acquired goaltender has won two starts in as many days while allowing just two goals over a combined 67 shots.