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Burns: 3 Things we learned from win No. 62

Beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Lightning's 6-3 win over the Bruins on Saturday afternoon

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning just completed the winningest season in National Hockey League history, their 62-win season matching the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most victories all-time in the League.

Now, the real fun begins.

The Lightning finished 2018-19 the same way they started the regular season and with the same result they had nearly every time they took the ice this season: with a victory.

The Bolts beat the Bruins 6-3 in Boston Saturday afternoon, Tampa Bay going 3-1-0 against its Atlantic Division rival in the regular season.

The Lightning locked up their playoff spot March 9. They clinched the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the most points at the end of the regular season on March 18.

With nothing much to play for since that date, the Bolts continued piling up the wins, going 5-3-0 down the stretch.

But all that means nothing starting Monday when the Lightning begin preparations for the first round of the playoffs, their opening opponent still undetermined but down to either Carolina or Columbus.

Tampa Bay capped a historic season Saturday with another victory. Here's Three Things we learned from win No. 62.

Video: Cooper on the Bolts Historic Reg. Season

Tampa Bay's 62-16-4 season will go down as its best regular season in franchise history. It's 128 points far outpaced its previous record of 113 points from 2017-18.

But was it the best season in NHL history?

It'd be hard to argue otherwise.

Tampa Bay's 62 wins tied the League record for most victories in a season. Only the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings put up as many. The fact the Lightning reached that impressive win total in the salary cap era when parity reigns supreme in the League is a testament to just how dominant this Lightning team was against the rest of the NHL.

"It's a great sign we've been consistent and finding ways to win and again tonight, down two," said Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh, alluding to the Bolts' rally from a 2-0 deficit entering the first intermission in Boston. "It wasn't a great first period for us. We simplified things. (Starting goaltender) Eddie (Pasquale) gave us a chance throughout the whole game. It feels good right now, and the consistency and confidence in our team should help us going into what we've got next."

Tampa Bay's 128 points are the fourth most in League history, the Lightning passing the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens (127 pts.) with their win Saturday.

The Bolts proved they could come out victorious no matter the venue too. The Lightning earned their 30th road win of the season in Boston and are just the second team in NHL history to reach 30 road wins in a season, joining the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings (NHL record 31 road wins).

Tampa Bay has held first place in the NHL standings since its 26th game on November 29 and sole possession since December 2 and are one of just four NHL teams all-time to move into first place by its 26th game and stay there through the end of the regular season.

The Lightning finished 2018-19 with 319 goals, the most in the NHL in the salary cap era and the most since 1995-96.

The Bolts own a plus-103 goal differential and are one of just 40 teams all-time with a plus-100 goal differential or greater and the first to do so since the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators.

No matter what metric you're using or what statistic you're looking up, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning are at or near the top of the leaderboard. They not only dominated the rest of the League in 2018-19, they dominated the NHL record books too.

"You think about everything that's gone on with our team, you've got to credit our players on 62, a number that's only been touched once," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "For a team that's been kind of locked into a playoff spot for quite some time, to be able to bring it every single night, they all haven't been great, but to continue to find a way and to get to that number, it's a credit to the players, staff, trainers, equipment guys, unreal job."

Tweet from @TBLightning: 128. 🇷#Klutcherov | #GoBolts

Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov doesn't like to talk much about his personal accomplishments, choosing to focus on team success rather than his own.

Often, when he's asked about an achievement in a post-game scrum, he'll reply with a simple "next" to signify he'd rather talk about what his teammates are doing.

But even the humble Kucherov recognized the importance of what he did Saturday.

Kucherov entered Boston with 126 points, just one point shy of tying Alexander Mogilny for the most points in a single NHL season by a Russian-born player.

Kucherov matched Mogilny's mark early in the third period after tallying what would prove to be the game-winning goal, Ryan McDonagh dishing across the blue line to Kucherov with speed and the winger splitting a pair of Bruins defensemen before depositing the puck in the back of the net with the backhand following a nifty move to fake out Tuukka Rask.

"He's got the D man all over him, and he just kind of seems to find a way to sneak it by the goalie," said McDonagh, who tallied a career high for single-season assists with his 37th helper of the season on Kucherov's game-winning goal. "Such a smart player, obviously, a gifted player. Again, just wants to be an impact player every night. He's been so consistent for us. It's great to see him have all the successes. He's really earned it for sure."

Kucherov grabbed the Russian record all for himself in the closing moments of the game with Boston's net empty and the Lightning holding a two-goal lead. Kucherov cleared the puck out of his own zone and up ahead into the neutral zone for Ondrej Palat, who fought off a defender and got the puck to a wide-open Tyler Johnson for the center to easily slip into the open goal.

Kucherov earned his 87th assist and 128th point of the season with the second assist on Johnson's empty-netter and now owns the NHL record for the best season ever by a Russian-born player.

Kucherov's 87th assist also tied a League record for most assists in a season by a winger, matching Jaromir Jagr's 87-assist season from 1995-96.

After the puck crossed the goal line, Johnson immediately raced after it to pick it up and give to Kucherov, a memento he'll no doubt cherish for the rest of his life.

"Definitely a special moment for me," Kucherov said. "Thanks to everybody in the room and thanks for the guys helping me out. Without them, definitely wouldn't be where I am right now. It's a team effort. Everybody's involved in my success. Everybody's pushing each other. It's been a fun year."

Video: TBL@BOS: Stamkos nets SHG, sets career high in points

Steven Stamkos has registered 60 goals in a season before to win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2011-12.

His 51-goal season in 2009-10 was good enough to claim a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

But with his consistent ability to produce on a nightly basis combined with an ability to score goals as well as set them up, the 2018-19 season might just go down as the best ever in the career of Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning superstar scored his second shorthanded goal in as many games (and fifth career shorty) midway through the second period after winning the opening draw on a penalty kill, outracing David Pastrnak to a loose puck sliding out of the zone and backhanding past Rask at the net on a breakaway to tie the game 2-2.

Stamkos registered his 45th goal of the season Saturday. He finishes the regular season on a four-game goal streak and with 10 goals over his last 10 games.

And he recorded his 98th point of the season on the game-tying play to set a new career high for scoring in a season, bettering his previous mark of 97 points from 2011-12.

"He's not just shooting, shooting, he's a (complete) player," Kucherov said. "He can do everything. He works on his game. I'm not surprised. He's our leader. He plays his best every game, and he pushes everybody here in the room to pick it up and follow him."

Maybe even more impressive, Stamkos skated in his 82nd contest Saturday to finish as one of five Bolts to play every game in the 2018-19 regular season, joining Alex Killorn, Ryan McDonagh, Anthony Cirelli and Kucherov.

For a player whose injury woes over the last few seasons have been well-documented, a player who's admitted his surgically-repaired knee will probably never feel the way it once did pre-surgery, to put together a full season as well as the most productive one of his career had to be gratifying for the Lightning captain.

There's only one thing that would make it more enjoyable:

Hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head at the conclusion of the playoffs.

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