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Nikita Kucherov scores hat trick as Lightning beat Ottawa

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The Tampa Bay Lightning played one of most inspired games of the season Monday night, blasting the second-place (Atlantic Division) Ottawa Senators 5-1. Nikita Kucherov blistered three straight shots in the second period into the net to lead the way.

It was the second Hat Trick of his career, with all three goals coming in a row in the second period. His scores were all similar – one timers from the circle to the goaltender’s left. All three snapped into the net in span of 17 minutes and nine seconds.

“Let’s go back a couple games,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He had nine shots on goal, didn’t score. He had that mentality of, ‘I want to score.’ It wasn’t pass first, pass first, pass first. Then you get to the game after that, I think he had seven shots and he scored in the game. When the Calgary game came, he had zero shots after two periods. He ended up getting a couple shots at the end, but when he’s got that shooter’s mentality with the gift he has to put the puck in the back of the net, this is what happens.

“Now what’d he have: seven tonight? This will happen for him. Guys like Kuch, they’re special players. They have high hockey IQ’s. They want to make plays and sometimes it hurts them by making too many plays. When he’s got that shooter’s mentality, these are the type of things that happen.”

It was the kind of game that signals that maybe, just maybe, the Bolts are still in it despite the trades of goaltender Brian Bishop and forward Brian Boyle.

For instance, there was Kucherov’s magic. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won his first game since Jan. 24, and collected only his third since Dec. 31, a span of 14 games. Vasilevskiy said he refused to think about Bishop’s trade, thinking only about stopping pucks instead. It worked for him.

Forward Jonathan Drouin had three assists on the night, and Brayden Point and Braydon Coburn scored goals.

The Bolts are home Wednesday night against Carolina.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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