TAMPA – Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said earlier today when his first line’s goals would come, they’d come in buckets.
Turns out, Cooper was right.
The Bolts’ first line trio of Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis combined for seven points, including Stamkos’ first hat trick since 2011, in a 7-2 win against the Florida Panthers Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“They were rolling, you could just tell,” Cooper said. “They kept putting themselves in position to score, without sacrificing the other end. They are really talented players and it’s been fun to watch and to see it all pay off, it was great.”
Stamkos, who was the first star of the game, finished the night with four points (three goals, one assist) tying his career-best, while Valtteri Filppula added his second and third goals of the year. St. Louis’ first tally of the game helped him surpass Bobby Orr in all-time career points.
“I knew I was getting some opportunities in the first couple games and that was a good sign, I knew eventually it was going to go in,” Stamkos said. “I love to play on home ice in front of these fans. We got into it right away and the confidence is back. Hopefully it continues.”
Goaltender Ben Bishop also earned his third straight win, stopping 19 of 21 Florida shots.
Addressing their need to make an offensive statement early in Thursday’s contest, the Lightning did just that. Stationed behind the net, Teddy Purcell sent the puck to Stamkos to the right of Florida netminder Jacob Markstrom’s net. Stamkos then passed across the slot to St. Louis, who sent a wrister past Markstrom, just as their first power-play of the game expired for a 1-0 lead at 8:13. With the goal, St. Louis extended his point streak to three straight games.
Six minutes later another top-liner contributed his first goal of the season. Connecting with St. Louis again, Stamkos deflected his pass into the Panthers’ net for a two-goal lead at 13:54 of the opening period. The goal was also the Lightning’s first shorthanded goal since March 2012. St. Louis and Victor Hedman picked up the helpers on the tally.
“The coaching staff wanted to get some offensive guys on the ice for a shorthanded situation,” Stamkos said. “Obviously we have to play defense first, but it’s nice to get on the attack. That’s the best defense, if you can get in on it during the penalty kill and pressure them. It’s icing on the cake to score the goal.”
At the first period’s end the Bolts’ Hedman took a hooking penalty with 20 seconds remaining in the frame. The call resulted in the Panthers first goal of the game at the beginning of the second. After defenseman Brian Campbell’s shot went wide, Brad Boyes capitalized on the rebound for a 2-1 score 59 seconds into the middle frame.
Just past the midway point of the game Stamkos netted his second goal of the game. With no one able to come up with the puck in front of Markstrom, a mass scramble was the result. The puck eventually was filtered to Stamkos though, who regained a 3-1 lead with a wrister that found the back of the net at 11:39. Before the end of the period, Ondrej Palat also netted his first goal of the game for a 4-1 score at the close of two.
The Panthers tallied again early, this time at the start of the final frame, to remain within striking distance of the Lightning. Jonathan Huberdeau was awarded his first goal of the game to bring Florida back to a two-goal deficit. Yet the Bolts’ special teams went back to work with two power-play goals spread out in the third.
The first came from Filppula. Filppula received a pass from Matt Carle and then sent a wrist shot from the point at 6:38 of the third period on the man-advantage. Before the second power-play goal, Filppula added his second goal of the game. Stamkos then completed a hat trick and extended Tampa Bay’s lead to 7-2, as the team netted their third goal of the period. The hat trick was the sixth of Stamkos’ career. It also marked the first time in a game that Stamkos has recorded a shorthanded, power-play and even-strength goal.