Dustin Tokarski had no problem sharing a special evening with one of his teammates on Tuesday night.
Tokarski made 29 saves to notch his first career NHL win and even recorded an assist, a feat that was perhaps overshadowed by Steven Stamkos’ 50th goal of the season that capped a 6-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“It’s pretty unbelievable and it feels awesome,” Tokarski said of the victory. “And Steven, he’s just so explosive and he has a sniper shot, so it was an honor to be on the ice with him when he got number 50 and it was fun to watch.”
Stamkos beat goaltender Marty Turco at 11:43 of the final period as he wristed one from the right hash marks past the net minder’s outstretched pad to record his second and final goal of the game.
In doing so, he joined Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin and Joe Nieuwendyk as the only players in NHL history to record two 50-goal seasons before the age of 23.
Stamkos also scored in the second period for the Lightning, with Brian Lee earning assists on both goals.
“It was definitely in the back of my mind,” Stamkos said of scoring 50 goals. “It was nice the last time I did it to get 49 and 50 in the same game, so it was definitely running through my mind after that first one.”
Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson, Ryan Shannon and Victor Hedman also had first-period goals for Tampa Bay, and gave their club a 4-0 lead heading into the second frame that the Bruins were never able to climb out of.
The first three goals were in the Boston net within the opening 4:31 of the game, and chased Turco to the bench. He then returned after Tim Thomas allowed two goals on four shots, and finished the night with eight saves on 12 shots against.
“When you give those teams those leads, all of a sudden guys get frustrated and get away from the game plan,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “Instead of playing the way we should, we started to cheat and it really snowballed on us tonight.”
The first period ended with the Lightning holding a 10-2 advantage in shots. Boston, however, returned the favor in the middle frame and outshot Tampa Bay 15-3.
“The second period, we played good,” Tampa Bay Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “We just missed the net.”
Jordan Caron scored the lone goal for the Bruins, which have now lost three straight.
The win helped the Lightning stay within seven points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference behind division-rival Washington, which overcame a three-goal deficit on Tuesday night to earn a 5-4 win in the shootout over the New York Islanders.
Pyatt opened the scoring after redirecting a puck with his skate in the crease at 1:56 to grab the Lightning a quick 1-0 lead.
After Thompson’s ninth of the season doubled the score just 30 seconds later, Shannon made it 3-0 just 4:31 in while on the power play by deking Turco to the far post before coming back across and firing one into an open cage.
The sequence marked the second-fastest three-goal span to open a game in Lightning franchise history, falling short of the record set on Apr. 10, 1994 when the team scored three times in a span of 3:58 against the Hartford Whalers.
Tampa Bay then went up 4-0 when Hedman fired a slap shot from the point that looked to change direction in front before sneaking past Thomas to close out the first period.
Caron cut the deficit to four when he beat Tokarski 1:55 into the third, wedging Boston’s only goal between Stamkos’ pair of tallies to spoil the 22-year-old net minder’s first career shutout bid.
The setback didn’t seem to faze Tokarski, however, as he came up with a spectacular poke check in the crease to deny Milan Lucic from in close, then turned back a shot from point-blank range by Brian Rolston to keep the Bruins at bay.
“Dustin was great,” Stamkos said of his goaltender. “He made some big saves and looked so calm in there. It gave confidence to our team.”
Tokarski became the first goaltender since Jason LaBarbera on Mar. 5, 2004 to record his first point and get his first win in the same game.
“It’s great for him,” Boucher added. “It’s a relief for him to get that first win for his team. It was real important for our players and it was great. We have an incredible team spirit in here and these guys care about each other deeply. They never waver.”