Game 7 is usually the most exciting phrase in sports, but it's not one the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to hear.
The Bolts were hoping to close out the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals Wednesday night, but less than two minutes into overtime, Anthony Beauvillier scored the game-winner, forcing us into a winner-take-all Game 7 Friday.
On the bright side for the Lightning, the game is at AMALIE Arena in front of the home fans. Last time these teams played there Tampa Bay won a lopsided game 8-0.
Just as the Islanders responded in Game 6, it will be the Lightning hoping to respond in Game 7. The team still has not lost back-to-back playoff games since 2019.
One of the biggest storylines heading into Game 7 is what will happen with Lightning star forward Nikita Kucherov. Arguably the Bolts' best player this postseason, Kucherov was injured in Game 6 very early in the first period and did not return. The injury appeared to be caused by a crosscheck from Islander Scott Mayfield that was missed by the referees.
"Everyone knows how important 'Kuch' is to our team, you see the numbers he's putting up in these playoffs, you see what he does on the ice," Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow said. "If he's not able to play it's going to take everyone to give a little bit more to try to fill that void. Obviously, we're hoping he plays, but if he doesn't, it's going to take a little bit more from everyone in the lineup to try to replace a guy like that."
As of Friday morning, there has still been no word on Kucherov's status for Game 7.
Whatever happens in Game 7, the Montreal Canadiens will await the winner in the Stanley Cup Final after they closed out the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 Thursday. It will be Montreal's first appearance since 1993. Meanwhile the Islanders have not appeared in the Stanley Cup Final since 1984. The Lightning were obviously there last season.
But to get back and continue their quest for the cup, the Bolts have to win one more against the Islanders. Puck drop for that pivotal Game 7 is at 8 p.m. Friday.