Lightning's Nikita Kucherov Rips Canadiens Fans: 'Their Final Was Last Series'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 8, 2021

TAMPA, FL - JULY 7: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning hoists the Stanley Cup overhead after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five to win the best of seven game series 4-1 during the Stanley Cup Final of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on July 7, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov took aim at Montreal Canadiens supporters during a Bud Light-fueled press conference following the Bolts' Game 5 win Wednesday night to clinch their second straight Stanley Cup championship.

"The fans in Montreal acted like they won the Stanley Cup last game," Kucherov said about the celebration after the Habs' Game 4 win. "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Their final was last series"

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

"The fans in Montreal acted like they won the Stanley Cup last game. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Their final was last round."<br><br>Just an incredible press conference from Nikita Kucherov here.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ItsOn?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ItsOn</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StanleyCup</a> <a href="https://t.co/rmaNrCQVHB">pic.twitter.com/rmaNrCQVHB</a>

Kucherov was nothing short of spectacular throughout the Lightning's title run. He tallied 32 points (eight goals and 24 assists) in 23 playoff games, including 19 power-play points as the team converted 32.4 percent of its opportunities on the man advantage.

His availability for the postseason was a point of contention all year, though.

The 28-year-old Russian winger underwent hip surgery in December after Tampa's Stanley Cup triumph last season, which allowed the franchise to place him on long-term injured reserve and avoid his $9.5 million cap hit to remain under the salary cap for the 2020-21 campaign.

Cap rules don't apply for the playoffs, however, so the Lightning were able to activate him before the opening round without any violations or being forced to bench any key players to create cap space.

In June, Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois said the NHL reviewed the situation and cleared the Bolts of any wrongdoing.

"I know [the NHL] investigated the Nikita Kucherov one, and we have to be able to justify the surgery, the rehab time, the return to play clearance to make sure that everything was done according to the rules and according to the circumstances, and those were the cards we were dealt," BriseBois told reporters.

The Lightning face a similar problem heading into the offseason—they're already a projected $3.5 million over the 2021-22 salary cap with only 17 of the necessary 20 players, per CapFriendly—so how they navigate the situation will be watched closely over the summer once again.

Meanwhile, it's hard to blame Canadiens fans for their hearty celebration after Game 4. They made a highly unexpected run to the NHL's championship series and beat the star-studded reigning champions in overtime on home ice. That's reason enough to go wild despite the fact they were still staring down a 3-1 series deficit at the time.

Kucherov's comments will surely stick in the minds of the Habs and their supporters heading into next season and beyond, though. He'll be public enemy No. 1 every time he enters the Bell Centre from this point forward.