A night after joining an exclusive club with goals in his first six games of the season, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov did himself one better on Tuesday, potting a second-period goal against the Devils to push his consecutive games with a goal streak to seven.
He becomes the sixth player in the NHL's modern era (since 1943-44) to accomplish the feat, joining Mario Lemieux ('92-'93), Mike Bossy ('84-'85), Wayne Gretzky ('83-'84), Tony Tanti ('83-'84) and Ken Hodge ('73-'74).
The goal, which gave the Lighting a 4-3 lead, came on a blast from the top of the circle that beating Devils goalie Corey Schneider.
New Jersey eventually rallied for a 5-4 shootout win, ending Tampa Bay's four-game win streak.
It was the eighth goal of the season for Kucherov, which puts him one behind Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in the early going. He also added an assist on VladislavNamestnikov's first period goal, giving him 12 points on the season and vaulting him into a tie for the NHL lead with his linemate Steven Stamkos, who has benefited from Kucherov's hot start by assisting on six of his goals. The pair has contributed to the same goal 11 times already this season, including twice against the Devils.
"Right now, we're just trying to get him the puck as much as we can," Stamkos said after the Lightning beating the Red Wings on Monday. "He's got so much confidence and he can score in so many different ways."
Kucherov became the fourth player in the last 30 years to open the season with goals in six straight by scoring the winner against the Wings, joiningLemieux, Keith Tkachuk and the Lightning's general manager, Steve Yzerman. It marked Kucherov’s third game-winner of the season, his fourth career multi-goal game against Detroit and 13th goal in 12 career games against Dtroit.
"I'm not thinking about streaks," Kucherov said on Monday. "I just want to help our team. The wins we are getting now will help us a lot over the rest of the season."
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, and scoring at a goal-a-game clip is certainly a welcome offensive pop to open the campaign.