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Burns: 3 Things we learned from win No. 61

Beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Lightning's 3-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one step closer to matching the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most victories all-time in National Hockey League history.

The Lightning collected their 61st win of the season Thursday night following a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. The Bolts conclude the four-game regular season series against the Leafs with a 3-1-0 record.

Tampa Bay can tie the League record for victories in a season Saturday in the regular season finale at Boston.

The win over the Leafs was a bounce-back performance for the Bolts. After a lackadaisical performance two nights earlier in Montreal against a desperate Canadiens team, the Lightning went to work in Toronto re-establishing their "DNA" as Anton Stralman alluded to in his post-game comments following the loss to the Habs. Tampa Bay played smart in its own end, broke the puck out quickly and maintained possession to keep the puck from getting buried deep in its own zone. The Lightning didn't have a lot of opportunities against the Leafs, but they capitalized on the few they generated, Alex Killorn netting the game-winning goal with 5:48 remaining to break a 1-1 deadlock.

Andrei Vasilevskiy did the rest, stopping 29-of-30 shots to earn his 39th win and guarantee he'll finish the regular season as the NHL's wins leader for the second-straight season. Last year, he tied Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck for most wins in the League with 44.

Tampa Bay's win total is the second highest in NHL history. Here's what we learned from victory No. 61.

Video: TBL@TOR: Stamkos beats Andersen on shorthanded break

Games in Toronto are always extra special for Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.

His hometown of Markham is about 30 minutes away from downtown Toronto. He often has friends and family in the stands.

On Thursday, he put on a show for his fans in attendance.

Stamkos netted just the fourth shorthanded goal of his career and first since March 13, 2016 with his breakaway tally at 5:37 of the second period to level the score 1-1 after Toronto went in front on Mitchell Marner's goal less than five minutes into the game.

On the game-tying goal, Ryan McDonagh collected the rebound off a Toronto shot that bounced off the pads of Vasilevskiy and backhanded a pass up ahead for a wide-open Stamkos.

The Lightning's leading goal scorer knew exactly what to do on the breakaway, gathering McDonagh's pass at the blue line, skating in with time and space on Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and beating Andersen over the glove with a snap of his wrist.

Stamkos netted his 44th goal of the season.

"He was playing great on both sides. Does it all the time for us but even more tonight playing in his home town," said McDonagh, who earned his 44th point of the season with the assist on Stamkos' shorty to establish a new career high for single season scoring. "He just was a driving force for us, getting momentum on our side again and getting us back in the game and obviously making a great play on the game-winning goal. So great to see him playing with confidence on both sides of the ice."

Stamkos set up the game-winner too with a little less than six minutes remaining.

On the scoring play, Alex Killorn sent a cross-ice feed over to Stamkos inside the blue line. Stamkos had lots of space in front and skated into the lower left circle, where everybody in the building thought he would take the shot.

Stamkos, though, saw a better opportunity for Killorn and backhanded a puck into the upper right circle for Killorn to one-time past Andersen.

"I was at the end of my shift. I just wanted him to go in and shoot it really," Killorn said. "He found me because I think everyone kind of gravitates towards him when he has the puck. He found me, and it was a terrible shot, a change-up, probably why it went in."

With his second point on the night, Stamkos reached the 97-point mark on the season, equaling his career best for single season scoring established previously in 2011-12.

Stamkos will try to set a brand-new career high for scoring Saturday in Boston.

And, hey, while we're at it, why not go for 100 points captain?

Video: TBL@TOR: Kucherov joins Stamkos, Point with 40 goals

How's this for consistency?

Over the last three seasons, Nikita Kucherov has scored 40 goals, 39 goals and 40 goals.

Kucherov joined the Lightning's 40-goal club on Thursday with an empty-net tally in the game's final minute to add an insurance marker.

McDonagh got the puck in the defensive zone and, knowing Kucherov needed one more goal to reach 40 on the season, pushed a pass up ahead for the Russian right winger. Kucherov unleashed a shot from center ice that bounced off the right post, caromed across the goal mouth, struck the left post and slid into the empty net.

Kucherov joins Steven Stamkos (44) and Brayden Point (41) as 40-goal scorers for the Lightning, who are now the 23rd team in NHL history with three or more 40-goal scorers and the first to do so since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kucherov also earned his 126th point on the season, the most in the League since Jaromir Jagr tallied 127 points in 1998-99.

Kucherov needs one more point in the final game of the regular season Saturday to tie Alexander Mogilny's record for most points in a season in the NHL by a Russian-born player (127 points in 1992-93).

And, with an 11-point advantage currently over Edmonton's Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead, Kucherov is virtually assured of winning the third Art Ross Trophy in Tampa Bay history and becoming the second Lightning player to do so, joining Martin St. Louis, who won the award twice, in 2003-04 and 2012-13.

 Video: Killorn on the game-winning goal

Ready for one of the more astounding stats from this Tampa Bay Lightning season?

The Bolts will finish 2018-19 having lost back-to-back games just two times.

Only once were the Lightning defeated in consecutive games in regulation, that coming all the way in early November in a 6-4 home loss to Ottawa Nov. 10th and a 2-1 road defeat in Buffalo Nov. 13.

The Lightning also lost two-straight games February 5 and 7 following a 3-2 shootout loss to Vegas and a 1-0 overtime defeat to St. Louis.

That means, it's been nearly five months since the Lightning lost back-to-back games in regulation and failed to get a point in two-straight games.

That's called resiliency folks.

"I think our team's been good about that all year long," Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. "We don't really focus too much on one game. We kind of just look to the next one, and I thought we had a good response today. I thought all four lines were going, and I thought we played really well."

The Lightning lost 4-2 in Montreal on Tuesday and were looking to avoid consecutive losses when they took the ice in Toronto. After the Leafs scored the opening goal less than five minutes into the contest, the Lightning tallied three unanswered goals to win going away and keep alive their ridiculous streak of not letting losses pile up.

Tampa Bay went the entire season without losing more than two games in a row.
The last time they did that?

The Stanley Cup Final season in 2014-15.

"I think that's just a sign that we're consistent with our game," McDonagh said. "We obviously want to be. We take a lot of pride in being competitive and not allowing losses to snowball into something bigger. It's good that we can have a quick response after our losses this year and get back in the win column."

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