Nikita Kucherov scores in his first game back for Lightning (Video)

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov missed the entire regular season, but scored in his return to the ice against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally reached the mountaintop and won the Stanley Cup for the second-time in franchise history. This year, the team was without star winger Nikita Kucherov, who underwent offseason hip surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2021 NHL campaign. But, the winger received clearance to play in Tampa Bay’s first-round, Stanley Cup playoffs matchup against the Florida Panthers.

Of course, Kucherov made an immediate impact.

With the Lightning on the power play trailing the Panthers 2-1 in the second period, Kucherov took a pass from defenseman Victor Hedman and ripped off a one-timer past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to tie things up at two goals a piece.

Lightning: Nikita Kucherov scores in return game vs Panthers

If you thought Kucherov was done there, allow the former Hart Trophy winner to reintroduce himself.

With Tampa Bay on yet another power play, Kucherov took a cross-ice pass from Hedman and put it in the back of Florida’s net to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with a little over five minutes remaining in the second period.

Last regular-season, Kucherov tallied 33 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. In Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup inside the bubble, Kucherov scored seven goals and dished out 27 assists in 25 playoff games.

The Lightning have been patiently waiting for Kucherov to make his return for the most important games of the year, and they are basking in the already-tremendous results.