Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov forced from Game 3 after ‘dangerous play’ by Colorado Avalanche’s Devon Toews

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov exited Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals after what his teammate described as a “dangerous play” by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews.

Kucherov left the game 6-05 in the third leg of Tampa Bay’s eventual 6-2 win over the Avalanche that reduced Colorado’s series lead to 2-1.

As the Lightning winger handled the puck, Toews stuck his stick into Kucherov’s back and then pushed it across the ice and into the boards as Kucherov dropped to one knee.

Kucherov got up and walked just behind Toews. He came out for the ensuing power play after Toews was called for a counter check, but then went to the Lightning coaches room.

“It’s one of those plays you don’t want to see,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. “It’s a dangerous game. You never want to see that. We’ll see if anything happens – probably not. But it is a dangerous game.”

The Toews countercheck came about two minutes after Kucherov hit Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson along the end boards with a hit that could have warranted a penalty. Manson finished the game for Colorado.

Coach Jon Cooper said there was no update on Kucherov’s status.

“Unfortunately no update on the players. We’ll do that tomorrow,” Cooper said.

Regarding the toews-cross check, Cooper said the incident speaks for itself.

“When you get asked these kinds of questions, look for an answer that everyone in the building already knows,” Cooper said. “It’s a game. It’s a contact game. But the lads know what they’re doing. Smart, skilled players know what they’re doing with their racquet. We’ve all seen it.”

Kucherov is the Lightning’s top postseason goalscorer with seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 20 games. He had two assists in the Game 3 win.

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