The Tampa Bay Lightning won their record-tying 62nd game to cap a dominating regular season that has put them in the conversation as one of the best regular season teams in NHL history.
The Lightning’s performance this season has established them as an offensive juggernaut and their individual accomplishments will net them a lion’s share of hardware at the NHL awards this summer.
But team captain Steven Stamkos said after a 6-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday that they have their sights set on the ultimate playoff prize, the Stanley Cup.
“Yeah, we’ve said it all along, we’re just taking this thing in stride,” Stamkos said. “That’s a result of us playing the right way and winning games.
“It’s no easy feat in today’s NHL with the parity that we have that I think is the greatest in sports. To have a season like we did, but there’s no satisfaction in this group with the regular season.”
The Lightning tied the NHL record for wins in a season and locked up home ice advantage throughout the playoffs by beating the Bruins in the regular season finale.
Stamkos scored a shorthanded goal and Russian Nikita Kucherov notched an empty netter for the Lightning in front of a crowd of 17,600 at the Boston Garden arena.
The 62nd victory equaled the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, who were 62-13 with seven ties. The Lightning won six games in a shootout, which was introduced in 2005-06.
The Bruins won their 49th game and finished in second place behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division.
Boston will have home ice advantage against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Tampa Bay forward Kucherov had a goal and an assist to reach 128 points and set the single-season NHL points record for a Russia-born player.
NHL scoring leader Kucherov finished with 41 goals and 87 assists to pass former Buffalo Sabre Alexander Mogilny, who had 127 points in 1992-93.
“It’s definitely a special moment,” Kucherov said. “Thanks to all the guys in the room for helping me out, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s a team effort.”
Predators’s second straight title
Elsewhere, Viktor Arvidsson scored the go-ahead goal at 3:33 of the third period, and the Nashville Predators won their second straight Central Division title by rallying to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2.
The Predators (47-29-6) will play the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference first round. Dallas is the first wild card.
Nashville scored five straight goals after falling behind 2-0 in the first period on the final night of the 2018-19 regular season.
Cam Ward made 45 saves for the Blackhawks, who dropped to 36-34-12 on the season and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Sweden’s Arvidsson scored on the powerplay at 3:33 of the third to give Nashville their first lead of the game 3-2. It was his 34th goal of the season which established a franchise record for the Predators.
Nashville’s win means that the Winnipeg Jets will face the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
Also, Ryan Poehling made a splash in his NHL debut, scoring a hat-trick and the shootout winner as the Montreal Canadiens beat playoff-bound Toronto 6-5.
Ryan Strome scored at 2:09 into overtime and the New York Rangers beat Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.
Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin finished with 51 goals to lead the league for a record-setting eighth time.
The Edmonton Oilers got a scare when Canadian star Connor McDavid injured his leg after crashing hard into the net during a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
McDavid was driving hard to the net with the puck when he was chopped down by Mark Giordano. The diving Flames defenceman did not touch the puck on the play and was given a tripping penalty by the refs.
The Oilers said initial X-rays were negative but McDavid would be evaluated by team doctors on Sunday.