5 things we learned in the NHL: Lightning fighting through first slump

Check out some of the memorable moments with Alex Luey and his idol Alex Ovechkin after the Capitals captain scored a hat trick against the Maple Leafs.

Nikita Kucherov‘s hot start for the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the biggest stories through the first quarter of the season. With 17 goals in his first 19 games, Kucherov appears to be the next great superstar in the NHL.

But the mark of a true star is consistency and lately Kucherov has struggled, failing to find the back of the net for the fourth straight game on Saturday. In response, his team has fallen into a four-game slump too.

As Alex Ovechkin continued to roll with three more goals against the Maple Leafs, the difference between great and legendary remains a pretty big one.

Kucherov still has a long way to go.

Here are five things we learned in the NHL.

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Alex Ovechkin could be one of the greatest goal scorers ever

This might not necessarily be something new we learned, as Alex Ovechkin has been a goal scoring machine for his entire career, but his historic performance against the Maple Leafs was a nice reminder of just how great he can be.

Ovechkin scored a hat trick in the Capitals win, flying past Mike Bossy for 21st all-time with 576 goals. He now has 18 goals to lead the league and is only one goal behind recent Hall of Fame inductee Mark Recchi for 20th all-time.

Moving up the all-time list was just one many historic marks Ovechkin hit on Saturday.

Here’s just a sample of some of the others:

On top of all of this, Ovechkin showed everyone that he’s a nice guy off the ice too.

His biggest fan, 13-year-old Alex Luey, was in attendance and was Ovechkin’s special guest for the game. Luey is a cancer survivor and after Ovechkin heard his story, he invited the Niagara Falls, Ont., native and his family to hang out with the team before and after the game.

It’s an incredible story and may have motivated The Great 8 on the ice too. Luke Fox has more on the two Alexes’ special bond and you can see more of their adventures after the game in the video at the top of this page.

Nikita Kucherov, Lightning in first slump of season

For the first time all season, the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be in a rut. With a loss to the Penguins, the Lighting have lost two in a row for the first time all season and also three of their last four games. Nikita Kucherov doesn’t have a goal in any of those four games.

While he’s obviously not the only reason the Lightning have struggled (Steven Stamkos also hasn’t scored in those four games) this is just another example of how teams only go as far as their superstars do.

In their most recent losses, against the Penguins Saturday and Capitals Friday, the opponent’s star players were simply better than Tampa Bay’s.

Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel especially had dominant games against the Lightning, with each scoring two goals on Saturday.

The Lightning are still in first place in the Eastern Conference with 34 points and will be fine moving forward. But their recent struggles show that even the best wins can’t win them all.

Duchene finally gets on the board with Senators

Matt Duchene had been waiting to be traded from the Colorado Avalanche for a long time, but his early games with his new team have been less than ideal. However, Duchene finally got that monkey off his back, with a goal against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

It was Duchene’s first point in eight games with the Senators since the trade three weeks ago, but while Duchene has gotten off the slide, his team continues to tumble.

The Senators have now lost six in a row and seven of their last nine after dropping Saturday’s game to the Islanders. The Sens now have a 8-8-6 record and only 22 points, which puts them in a tie for 12th in the East.

“We definitely deserved better, right now it’s not about the effort. It’s clearly a total effort from beginning to end,” head coach Guy Boucher said after Saturday’s game. “We’re right there.”

While the Senators are staying positive, they’ll need to turn things around soon if they want to return to the playoffs.

Price is perfect

The Montreal Canadiens got a saviour sent from teh IR with Carey Price‘s return to the net on Saturday and he immediately stole the show with a 36-save shutout. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Canadiens.

Sure it was against the Buffalo Sabres, but a shutout is a shutout and it’s clear that Price’s return has energized the Habs.

Look how happy Brendan Gallagher is!

Now it’s only one game and Price has struggled for most of this season — you may remember he had an .877 save percentage entering this game — but having Price return to his old self could help stabilize things in Montreal.

Goaltending hasn’t been the Canadiens’ biggest problem this year. Their 29th-ranked offence is taking that crown.

Alex Galchenyuk also seemingly returned to form, snapping an 11-game goalless streak against the Sabres.

Are the Canadiens turning a corner? It’s too early to say. But as Eric Engels wrote in his post-game column, Saturday’s win was a “gigantic step in the right direction.”

Rittich backstops Flames to win in first NHL start

With the recent struggles of Eddie Lack, the Calgary Flames called up 25-year-old David Rittich this week and gave him his first NHL start on Saturday.

Despite his inexperience he looked like a veteran back there, making 24 saves to lead the Flames to a 3-2 win over the Avalanche.

Rittich was originally signed by the Flames as a free agent in 2016 after he started his pro career in his home country, the Czech Republic. He’s been one of the best goalies in the AHL this year posting a 5-1 record, 2.17 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and two shutouts for the Stockton Heat.

While getting his first NHL start was certainly exciting, Rittich almost seemed more excited to be skating with Czech legend Jaromir Jagr.

“If somebody told me 10 years ago that I will play or I will be practising with Jagr, I would be like, ‘No way. No chance,’” Rittich told The Calgary Sun earlier this week. “And it’s coming true, so I am happy about that.”

What a great story. Welcome to the NHL David.

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