The Lightning and Blackhawks traded the title of ‘NHL’s hottest team’ on Thursday night in a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup final.
The Lightning edged the Blackhawks 2-1 to put an end to Chicago’s franchise record 12-game win streak. The Lightning, however, have now won seven in a row themselves, one shy of their club record.
The Bolts won it on Nikita Kucherov’s 20th goal of the season. The third-year right winger has four goals in his last three games and as helped the Lightning rocket up the standings.
On January 8, when Tampa’s win streak began, the team sat in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, 10 points behind the Panthers. After their win Thursday, the Lightning are in second place, just one point behind the Panthers, who they visit on Saturday night.
The Lightning’s win streak also coincides with the drama surrounding the team and left winger Jonathan Drouin. Drouin was assigned to the AHL on January 2, and made headlines by demanding a trade out of Tampa. On Wednesday, the Lightning suspended him after he refused to play for the Syracuse Crunch in a game against the Marlies in Toronto. How are they doing since all the drama unfolded?
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ streak is over but they did some damage of their own. On December 29 they were in third place in the Central Division and trailed the Stars by 11 points. They are now in first place, with a five-point lead, and look very much like Stanley Cup contenders again.
The way the Lightning are playing lately, they could be right back in the finals with the Blackhawks come June.