Nikita Kucherov was forced off after helping the Tampa Bay Lightning to victory against the Colorado Avalanche
The Tampa Bay Lightning surged back into Stanley Cup Final contention with victory against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their series, but the win came at a cost as Russian star Nikita Kucherov left the ice injured before the end of the game.
After enduring the ignominy of a 7-0 thrashing in Denver at the weekend, two-time defending champion the Lightning bounced back on home ice with a 6-2 rout of the Avs on Monday night, cutting the deficit in the series to 2-1.
Russian stars were again at the forefront, with Bolts winger Kucherov providing two assists to make him only the fourth player in Stanley Cup Playoff history to register more than 25 points in three consecutive seasons, joining the great Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, and Bryan Trottier.
In the Tampa Bay goal, Russian stopper Andrei Vasilevskiy had 37 saves to burnish his credentials for this season's playoff MVP accolade.
Kucherov's evening at the Amalie Arena was marred however when he was forced off with just over six minutes remaining of the third frame.
The Bolts star received a stick in the back from Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews before being sent into boards, appearing to twist his leg awkwardly in the process.
Kucherov got up angrily to charge at Toews and emerged for the resulting power play after the Avs star was punished for a cross-check, but the Russian departed the ice soon afterwards.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said there was no early update of the extent of the injury, telling the media: "We'll do that tomorrow."
Kucherov had slammed Avs defensemen Josh Manson hard into the boards around two minutes before the incident, although the Russian's teammate Victor Hedman condemned the hit from Candian star Toews.
"It's a dangerous play. You never want to see that. We'll see if anything happens - probably not. But it's a dangerous play," said Hedman.
The Bolts will be desperate to get Kucherov on the ice for Game 4 in Tampa on Wednesday night, with the 29-year-old the leading postseason scorer for his team with seven goals and 19 assists in 20 games.
Colorado had their own sense of injustice on Monday night and thought they had taken the lead in the first period through in-form Russian star Valeri Nichushkin, only for the goal to be successfully challenged by the Lightning after video replays showed an offside.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar suggested the lengthy delay for the video review was dubious, claiming "it was probably three times the length we normally get."
The Avs did take the lead through Gabriel Landeskog before the Bolts took over and dominated, with two-point games from Kucherov, Hedman, Patrick Maroon, Ondrej Palat and captain Steven Stamkos.
The visitors were without Andre Burakovsky after his hand injury in Game 2, while center Nazem Kadri remains sidelined with a broken thumb.
Having mostly cruised through the playoffs en route to the final and establishing a 2-0 series lead against the Lightning, the Avs will have their mettle tested following Monday's reversal of fortune as they pursue a first championship since 2001.
Tampa Bay meanwhile are seeking to pull off a first Stanley Cup 'threepeat' since the New York Islanders won four on the spin in the early 1980s.