The Tampa Bay Lightning had history on their side in their 6-3 win over the Bruins in the season finale at TD Garden Saturday.
Tampa made it three out of four from the Bruins in a potential preview of the second round of the playoffs. The Lightning captured their 62nd victory, equaling the NHL record for wins in a season set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-1996.
The Lightning had secured the Presidents Trophy with a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on March 18 and completed the campaign 62-16-4 for 128 points, surpassing the 1996-1977 Montreal Canadiens (127) for fourth place for points in a season. Tampa also became the second NHL team to register 30 road wins.
“Give our group a lot of credit for continuing to come to the rink everyday regardless of where we sat in the standings and just wanting to win,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
“That was unlike anything a lot of us have ever been through in our careers being clinched for so long and in a position where we knew we were going to be in the playoffs. We wanted to finish strong and I thought we did and I’m ready for playoff hockey.
“It was a result of us playing the right way and winning hockey games and it is no easy feat in the NHL with the parity we have, which I think is the greatest in sports.”
The Lightning and the Bruins finished one-two in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The Bruins will host the Maple Leafs in their playoff opener, likely Thursday night.
If Tampa wins its opening round series against either Columbus or Carolina, they would face either Boston or Toronto in the conference semifinals. The Lightning closed out the season with road wins over the Maple Leafs and Bruins.
“You need points to get to the playoffs and that’s what we did,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who completed his seventh season on the bench.
“But now it is the second season and we will enjoy this on the flight home. The step from game 82 to game 83 is not a step, it’s a leap. We’ve been through this before and are schooled in it but the intensity level and everything involved is amped up.”
The Lightning also had its two resident superstars achieve individual milestones in the lopsided win. Stamkos recorded a shorthanded goal, his second in consecutive games, to finish with 45 goals, 56 assists and a personal best 98 points.
Tampa right wing Nikita Kucherov recorded a goal and an assist to finish with 128 points, passing Buffalo’s Alexander Mogilny (1992-1993) for the most points in a season by a Russian born player.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a special moment for me,” said Kucherov. “Thanks to everybody here in the room and thanks for the guys helping me out.
“Without them, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now and it’s a team effort. Everybody is involved in my success.”