For years, Martin St. Louis was the heart and soul of the Tampa Bay Lightning, leading the team to a Stanley Cup championship, setting several franchise records, becoming their all-time leading scorer, and earning a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. On Thursday night, Steven Stamkos broke one of St. Louis’s records as the Lightning made a huge statement in a much-needed late-season victory.
Stamkos’s tacked on two assists to go along with a goal, and with 956 points in 917 games, the Lightning captain stands alone as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Having gone through more downs than ups over the last month-and-a-half, the Bolts hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs in desperate need of a win against a likely postseason opponent.
They answered the bell in emphatic fashion, pouring it on and never letting up in an 8-1 rout of the Leafs at Amalie Arena. With the win, the Lightning remain in third place in the Atlantic Division and six points behind the Leafs. Tampa Bay has five games remaining on their schedule, with a game in hand on Toronto. Although it might be too little, too late in overtaking the Leafs in the standings, the Bolts sent a message. This wasn’t just a message to their division rivals, but the rest of the Eastern Conference as well: No matter what happens in the playoffs, the Lightning will not be an easy out for whoever they play, whether it be Toronto or anyone else.
Plenty of offense to go around
Thirteen Lightning players finished with points on the evening, seven of them recording multiple points. In addition to Stamkos, Ondrej Palat also tallied a goal and two assists. Alex Killorn and Ross Colton each finished with two goals and an assist, while Victor Hedman and Corey Perry each notched two assists. As it turns out, Stamkos wasn’t the only Lightning player to hit a milestone. Nikita Kucherov’s two-point night gave him 601 in 557 career games. As a result, Kucherov became the fastest player in franchise history to reach 600 points. As if that wasn’t enough, Colton became a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his career in the second period. This all happened without Brayden Point, who the Lightning announced in the pregame is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Andrei Vasilevskiy rebounded from Tuesday’s loss to Detroit, stopping 35 of 36 shots to earn the win. At the other end, Erik Kallgren got shelled, allowing all eight Lightning goals on 36 shots. Toronto played without superstar center Auston Matthews, but with the way this game turned out, even Matthews wouldn’t have made much of a difference tonight.
A physical, playoff-like first period with Vasilevskiy coming up big
On the heels of Tuesday’s loss to Detroit, the Lightning knew they needed to come out engaged and ready to play, which they did. After totaling 18 hits in the entire game against Detroit, the Bolts delivered 18 hits in the opening period alone. On the other hand, they also allowed 15 shots on goal while taking just seven themselves, yet Tampa Bay possessed a clear edge in scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes. Kucherov and Palat teamed up for a pair of 2-on-1 chances, with Kallgren denying Palat on one and T.J. Brodie breaking up Kucherov’s pass on the other.
Each team’s power play also came up empty one time each, but not without generating some solid looks. As the period wore on, the Leafs began to put more pucks on net, but Vasilevskiy proved to be up to the task, looking like the Vezina-worthy goaltender the Bolts are accustomed to. Between the physical play and the chirping, the opening period very much had the feel of a playoff contest. That proved especially true with these two teams being possible first round opponents. At one point, Pat Maroon took a shot from Zach Bogosian off his leg, heading to the bench in pain. Not long after, Maroon and Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds started chirping each other from the end of their respective benches.
The Pat Maroon – Wayne Simmonds chirping has started early. 👀 pic.twitter.com/DQEyqrlUUd
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 22, 2022
Tampa Bay pours it on as Stamkos becomes the team’s all-time leading scorer
Following a late penalty on Hedman in the first period, the Lightning started the second needing to kill a Leafs power play for 1:54, and they delivered. After that, it was all Tampa Bay from that point on, although each team did have a period of five uninterrupted minutes where they exchanged chances. Killorn started the onslaught at the 3:54 mark when he completed a beautiful puck-moving sequence by deflecting home a shot for his 24th of the season. At 11:37, Colton got in on the act after a dogged forecheck by Nick Paul. Paul created a turnover, dished it to Corey Perry, who returned it back to Paul. Paul then slipped a pass cross-crease to Colton, who slammed it home and punctuated it with an emotional celebration and a 2-0 lead.
With 7:22 left on the clock and the Bolts on a power play, Stamkos extended the Lightning’s lead to 3-0 with a power play goal. It was only fitting that he became the Lightning’s all-time leading scorer on a one-timer from his spot in the left faceoff circle.
“THERE IT IS! THE FRANCHISE RECORD!” @DaveMishkin
Says it all, doesn’t it?
Congratulations to @RealStamkos91 for becoming the franchise all-time leader in points
— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) April 22, 2022
Just under three minutes later, Kucherov put the final stamp on the second period, cleaning up a loose puck in front of Toronto’s net to make it 4-0 with another power play goal, hitting the 600-point mark. After Maroon and Simmonds engaged in some trash talk in the first period, they dropped the gloves and took part in an evenly-matched and spirited scrap that saw the two combatants smile at each other near the end of it.
The Lightning kept piling on the goals while both teams racked up the penalty minutes
Four goals in the second period turned into four more goals in the third period for Tampa Bay, as Palat and Killorn extended Lightning’s lead to 6-1 within the first five minutes. Ilya Mikheyev got a power play goal back for the Leafs to spoil Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid, but the Lightning tacked on another couple of power play goals, one from Colton and one from Maroon, which had to have been like salt in the wound for Toronto after he had been chirping them the entire game.
Much of the remainder of the third period played out like you see with a lot of blowout games. Lots of scrums, lots of pushing and shoving. In addition, there was plenty of trash-talking, a lot of salty language, and a parade to the penalty box. By the end of the night, 116 minutes in penalties were handed out, including a match penalty against Toronto’s Kyle Clifford for high-sticking that could result in a suspension. With a possible playoff matchup between these two teams on the horizon, the memories of this game probably won’t be short.
Tampa Bay returns to action Saturday night when they host the Nashville Predators at 7 pm EST.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Steven Stamkos – One goal, two assists, passed Marty St. Louis as the all-time leading scorer in Lightning history
2nd Star: Ross Colton – Two goals, one assist, hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career
3rd Star: Alex Killorn – Two goals, one assist
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