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Lightning's Nikita Kucherov not letting Stars take him off his game

By Diana C. Nearhos, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Hockey

The Stars did their scouting report on Nikita Kucherov. Their game plan, like the Islanders' before them, appears to be to stick on him, try to get under his skin.

Kucherov took a big hit from Jamie Benn, a high stick from Mattias Janmark, then crashed into the boards bearing the brunt of Jamie Oleksiak's 225-pound frame. That was only in the first period of Game 2.

He ended up going to the locker room, he said to replace a broken visor.

"Tough start, I guess," Kucherov said with something of a chuckle. "But it's a playoff game, you have to play. It doesn't matter what happens."

In the second period, Kucherov took two hits within 30 seconds from Corey Perry, then Jason Dickinson.

That might have worked against Kucherov in the past - he's let his frustration out before - but it's not working in these playoffs.

 

Also in that same first period for the Stanley Cup final series, Kucherov put two shots on net and made two beautiful passes to set up goals.

Coach Jon Cooper said when Kucherov was a little younger, he might have been concerned about him getting frustrated. Not this year.

"The attention he gets is unparalleled," he said. "You're getting that attention for a reason. It's because you're pretty darn good. But you can't let them see you sweat."

When the Islanders tried something similar, the coach said he hoped they would keep doing it because Kucherov responded well.

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