Suddenly, Point is playing like Gordie Howe

by Gary Shelton on December 15, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Point moves the puck down the ice in overtime./CARMEN MANDATO

Point has elevated his game this season./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 2 a.m.

On his way to becoming a big-time player, the Lightning's Brayden Point made a brief stop Thursday night.

Alongside Gordie Howe.

Oh, no one is prepared to compare Point to Howe in his second year in the NHL. But for a night, Point at least completed the mythological "Gordie Howe Hat Trick." In other words, he scored a goal, had an assist and got into a fight in the team's 4-1 win over Arizona.

While the sight of Point mixing it up was a little odd, there is little that the player does any more that surprises people. In 31 games this season, Point already has 14 goals. He had 18 in 68 games a year ago.

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For the Lightning, the win had to be satisfying. A year ago, a pair of losses to Arizona might well have stood between the Tampa Bay and the playoffs.

This time around, it won't.

The Lightning took care of the Coyotes as goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 of 33 shots.

“You have to understand, when you miss the playoffs by a point, you start looking for answers," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "What were games we could have won but didn’t? When we went down the stretch last year, we had a 3-2 lead last year against these guys in our building and ended up losing the game. We look back at the game and think maybe that was the one that cost us the playoffs.

"Our locker room was well aware of that and then the mere fact (Arizona) had obviously had a poor start, but they go into Chicago and lose 3-1 where Chicago has to score late to pull ahead. They lose 1-0 to Columbus in a tough building to play. The team’s getting better. We knew it. We see it on the tape. (Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet) has done a hell of a job bringing the guys to where they are. There was a lot of fear on our end. It’s good we got the lead when we did and held on to it.”

The Bolts got goals from Vlad Namestnikov,Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson in the win. It was Kucherov's 22nd goal of the year. Johnson has scored eight goals, but half of those have come in the last six games.

Point's night was the talk of the locker room.

“That was surprising," captain Steven Stamkos said. "He got the Gordie Howe hat trick. It’s good to see him stick up for himself, and he’s played very well. Another great game by that line as well, and we’re feeling good about ourselves right now.”

The Bolts had a season-hight 45 shots on the season.

Tampa Bay plays in Colorado on Saturday night. The puck drops at 9 p.m.

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