Over the course of his NHL career, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has slowly evolved from a pure goal-scorer to a more complete two-way player also known for his setup ability. Since returning from injury in October 2017, Stamkos has been criticized to some degree for becoming too unselfish and passing up shots.
Following his two-goal, four-point performance on Saturday night, Stamkos continued to show on Monday night that he’s still got plenty of juice left in that lethal shot of his.
Stamkos set a franchise record with the ninth hat trick of his career, Anthony Cirelli chipped in a pair of goals, and Louis Domingue stopped 23 of 26 shots as the Lightning (24-7-1, 47 points) beat the New York Rangers (14-13-3) 6-3 at Amalie Arena. Stamkos’s second goal of the contest also marked the 700th point of his NHL career. Tampa Bay’s current seven-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the NHL at this time, giving them an eight-point lead on Toronto for not only first place in the Atlantic Division, but first place in the entire NHL. Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and J.T. Miller each had two assists, while Ryan McDonagh scored the go-ahead goal in the second period. This contest was just another example of the Lightning finding ways to win after falling into a bit of a hole early on.
Weird bounces, breakdowns highlight a back-and-forth opening period.
In the game’s opening 20 minutes, the Lightning held the advantage in play at 5-on-5, attempting 19 shots compared to 13 for the Rangers when the two teams played at even strength. While the Lightning generated more than a few quality shots off the rush, they found themselves down 1-0 at 12:19 immediately after an unsuccessful Rangers power play. Kevin Hayes turned around and fired a simple backhand towards Domingue that bounced off McDonagh’s skate and into the net. Just 1:50 later during a power play chance of their own, the Lightning tied it up 1-1 when Stamkos blasted one of his patented one-timers from the left circle past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for his 13th of the season.
The Rangers, who nearly scored on a 3-on-1 earlier in the period only to see a shot by Steven Fogarty go wide, went up 2-1 just 58 seconds after Stamkos’s goal. Hayes found Jimmy Vesey in front, but Domingue made the save. However, nobody picked up Hayes, who deposited the rebound past Domingue for his second of the night and seventh of the season.
Moments later, Hedman rang a shot off the post off a rush, and the Bolts had a golden opportunity to tie the game with a power play that turned into a 31-second 5-on-3. However, too much passing and not enough shooting led to Tampa Bay coming up empty going into the intermission following a fast-paced opening period.
Tampa Bay takes control as Stamkos notches point #700.
Following a first period that saw both teams generate their share of chances while missing the net a handful of times, the Lightning settled down and began dominating both at even strength and on the power play. The Bolts out-shot the Rangers 16-5 in the middle period and had 26 shot attempts to just 12 for New York. At 6:19, Stamkos joined Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis as the only Bolts to record 700 career points when he notched another power play goal on a shot while he was falling down.
700 points in 696 games.
He’s missed time. He’s returned from injuries. He never faltered.
And we’re lucky to watch it all. Congrats, Captain. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/gHcZ2a9fQi
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 11, 2018
With the game tied 2-2, Tampa Bay continued to push the pace of this contest, forcing Lundqvist to make a number of key saves that kept the Rangers afloat. Unfortunately for him, it was a former Ranger teammate who squeezed one by him that he immediately knew he wanted back.
The play began when Kucherov patiently waited until he saw Point open in the neutral zone, finding him with a well-placed pass. The Bolts were off to the races on a 3-on-2, with Point finding McDonagh down the left wing. McDonagh faked a slap shot, but then pulled up and wristed one that slipped through Lundqvist at 12:42. McDonagh’s third of the season made it 3-2 for Tampa Bay, a lead they nearly built upon over the final eight minutes of the period.
The Bolts weathered a push from the Rangers, then countered with a pair of quick goals to put this one out of reach.
During the third period, the Rangers began to make a push, holding the puck in the Lightning’s zone for a couple of long shifts and tiring them out. Their best chance at tying this game up came about halfway through the period when Domingue flashed the glove and made a huge save on Marc Staal from the right circle. At the 10:17 mark, Cirelli used his tenaciousness, hounding Fredrik Claesson into a turnover in the Rangers’ zone. Cirelli then cut to the net and tucked the puck past Lundqvist into the far side of the net, stretching the Lightning’s lead to 4-2. Merely 24 seconds later, Stamkos scored his 15th of the season, causing hats to cascade onto the ice.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 11, 2018
Braydon Coburn chipped the puck up to Ondrej Palat, and the Bolts were off to the races. Palat found Stamkos, who powered a one-timer past Lundqvist and put the Lightning up 5-2. Erik Cernak put an exclamation point on this one with his first career fight, wrestling Matt Beleskey to the ground, and even though the Rangers got a late goal from Jesper Fast, Cirelli put this one on ice with an empty net goal in the final minute.
The Lightning conclude their home-stand on Thursday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a crucial Atlantic Division showdown. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.
-Stamkos’s hat trick was his first since October 13, 2014 when he tallied three goals in a 7-1 win over Montreal at Amalie Arena.
-Stamkos’s nine career hat tricks put him one above St. Louis and three above Lecavalier for the most in team history.
-The Lightning out-shot the Rangers 36-26.
-After not scoring for nine straight games, Cirelli has scored goals in three consecutive contests.
-The Lightning are now 9-0-0 against Metropolitan Division teams this season.
-Tampa Bay has now scored four or more goals 21 times this season, posting a record of 19-1-1 in such games. They have scored at least five goals in six of the seven games of their current winning streak.
-The Bolts lead the NHL with 128 goals scored and average a league-leading four goals per game.
-Domingue has won six straight starts and owns wins in nine of his last 10 starts. He’s now won 14 games this season.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Steven Stamkos – Recorded his ninth career hat trick, the most in team history.
2nd Star: Anthony Cirelli – Scored the eventual game-winner in the third period and added an empty net goal. On a three-game goal streak.
3rd Star: Kevin Hayes – Scored the Rangers’ first two goals of the night.
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