Nikita Kucherov has battled his fair share of injuries over the last two seasons. The Tampa Bay Lightning right winger from Maykop, Russia missed the entire 2020-21 National Hockey League regular season with hip surgery and then missed 11 weeks this season after surgery from a lower-body injury he suffered on October 16 in a 2-1 Lightning win over the Washington Capitals.
On Tuesday, Kucherov looked like his normal self on the ice–like the player that won the 2019 Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy, and led the NHL with 128 points. In a 6-1 Lightning win over the Buffalo Sabres, Kucherov notched his fourth hat trick of his NHL career.
Kucherov put the Lightning up 3-0 at the 27 second mark of the second period with a power-play marker from Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point. Kucherov then put the Lightning up 4-0 at 10:21 of the second period on a goal from Corey Perry and Stamkos. Then at 13:57 of the third period, Kucherov scored from Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn to close out the scoring and put the Lightning up 6-1.
In six games this season, Kucherov has four goals and five assists for nine points.He also is a +1 with two penalty minutes, four power-play points, 24 shots on goal, two blocked shots, four hits, one takeaway and two giveaways. This was the second time this season that Kucherov has had more than two points in a game. In the Lightning’s season opener, he had one goal and three assists for four points in a 7-6 Lighting win over the Detroit Red Wings on October 14.
Kucherov’s three prior hat tricks came in a 7-3 Tampa Bay win over the Arizona Coyotes on October 28, 2014, in a 5-1 Lightning win over the Ottawa Senators on February 27, 2017, and in a 6-3 Lightning win over the Boston Bruins on March 23, 2017. The Lighting are currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with the Florida Panthers.Both teams have 53 points.