TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Shea Weber’s wallet is a little lighter heading to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The NHL on Tuesday fined the Montreal defenseman $5,000 for slashing Tampa Bay star Nikita Kucherov during the third period of the Canadiens’ 5-1 loss to the Lightning in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
No penalty was called on the play, and Kucherov did not appear to be injured on Monday night. The fine imposed by the league’s department of player safety is the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s not the first non-call that’s riled the defending Stanley Cup champions this postseason.
Kucherov missed the entire regular season while recovering from hip surgery but returned for the postseason. He missed most of Game 6 of Tampa Bay’s semifinal series against the New York Islanders after taking a cross-check to the lower back.
In an unusual move in the closing minutes against the Canadians, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper put five forwards on the ice during a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity.
“They’ve got a great penalty kill over there,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “It starts with their goalie.”
Montreal had gone a playoff-record 13 consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal before Kucherov scored 5-on-4 with 1:10 remaining to cap the a bruising win.
The Lightning were relentless, covering the entire ice, setting a physical tone for the series. Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher left the ice at one point in the third period, blood dripping from his forehead.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson, who has been filling in for Dominique Ducharme since Montreal’s interim coach tested positive for COVID-19, said Gallagher was fine.
“Gally is Gally. He’s got marks all over his face every game,” Richardson said Tuesday.
“He had a little bit of a goose egg last night, but it seemed to be a bit better today. He doesn’t look great, he looks like a road map right now,” Richardson added. “But he’ll be there battling and in everybody’s face at the crease the same as he always is.”
Kucherov is on track to lead the playoffs in scoring for the second straight year, amassing 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 19 games. The Lightning star had two goals and an assist in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, joining an elite group of hockey greats with multiple 30-point postseasons.
Wayne Gretzky did it six times during his Hall of Fame career. Mark Messier is next of the list with three, followed by Jari Kurri, Mario Lemieux and Kucherov with two. Kucherov finished last year’s Stanley Cup run with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists).
“He’s obviously a super special player that doesn’t come around too often. And to see the company he is in, with the production he’s had the last two playoff runs is pretty remarkable,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “Speaks to what he has accomplished as a player, but also what we have accomplished as a team.”
Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn’s status is uncertain for Game 2 on Wednesday night after leaving the series opener with an undisclosed injury. Killorn blocked a shot from Montreal’s Jeff Petry in the second period and played only one shift in the third.
“Hard to say right now but I’d throw him in the day-to-day category,” Cooper said.
Only three players in the postseason have more points than Killorn. Mathieu Joseph and Mitchell Stephens figure to be candidates to go in the lineup in his place if Killorn can’t play.
BELL CENTRE REMAINS AT 3,500
As much as Cooper wants Bell Centre to have more fans for Games 3 and 4 when the series shifts to Montreal, Canadiens executive vice president and chief commercial officer France Margaret Bélanger said Tuesday the capacity would remain at 3,500 for at least the first Cup Final game back in the city since 1993. The team had been trying to increase to 50% capacity, arguing with expert evidence that it would not have a negative public health impact.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.
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