Tampa Bay Lightning C Steven Stamkos gets huge monkey off his back

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos got a huge monkey off his back on Wednesday night, scoring an empty-netter which ended his four-game goal drought.

The Tampa Bay Lightning may have started out their series against the Boston Bruins on the wrong foot, but they have definitely found a way to get back on the right track and start winning games. Despite the elation here in the Bolts Nation, one member of the Bolts has had a huge monkey on his back lately.

As one could easily imagine, we are talking about Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Coming into Wednesday night’s game, the captain hadn’t scored a single goal in four games and hadn’t picked up so much as an assist in the last two. In other words, Stammer has been completely off the board against Boston.

Given the physical play of the Bruins and the sheer talent contained in their top line, this is not a good thing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thankfully, the captain found a way to shed this particularly annoying monkey and get down to business at the TD Garden in Boston.

The Bruins were already down by two goals after Anthony Cirelli picked up his first-ever NHL postseason goal late in the second period. Surprisingly, the Bruins put themselves in an awkward position which paid dividends for the Bolts.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy elected to pull goaltender Tuukka Rask with a little less than three minutes left in the third period. Under normal circumstances, this would be a perfectly normal action from a team looking to pick up two goals in the final minutes of the game and push an overtime period.

Where things take an interesting turn is when Bruins defenseman Torey Krug was whistled for two minutes for Tripping against Anthony Cirelli. Rather than return Rask to the net, Coach Cassidy elected to leave the extra skater on the ice. This is where Stamkos comes into the picture.

Steven Stamkos gained control of the puck at center ice thanks to a pass from his linemate J.T. Miller at the blueline. Under little to no coverage from the Bruins, Stamkos took the shot and hit the empty net to all but ensure the Lightning’s victory over the Bruins.

You could tell from the look on his face he was relieved he could put this behind him and move on. Granted, an empty-net goal could easily be considered the “easy” way out, but at the end of the day, a goal is a goal. They all count the exact same way on the scoresheet.

This could be the beginning of something great for the Lightning. If Steven Stamkos can continue to be offensively aggressive now that he’s broken the scoring drought, the Bruins could be in for a world of hurt; especially with the series about to head back to the Bolts Nation.

If the Lightning’s top line can start producing the same way the Ondrej PalatBrayden PointTyler Johnson has been performing, the Bolts could become the unstoppable force of the National Hockey League. Needless to say, the Bolts are going to have to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to pick up a victory in Game 4.

The Bruins are going to be looking for a little redemption before heading back to Tampa for Game 5. This means they are going to be checking hard and doing everything within their power to put the puck in the back of the net. It will be on the Lightning defense to minimize the number of shots that reach Andrei Vasilevskiy.

At the same time, the Lightning is going to need a repeat performance of Game 3 where they strike early and strike hard. This is essentially the best way to knock a goalie like Tuukka Rask off their game and keep them rattled for a full 60 minutes of hockey.

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The puck is set to drop at 7:00 p.m. You can catch all the hockey action on the NBC Sports Network. Of course, if you aren’t exactly a fan of the commentary on NBC Sports, you can always tune into 970WFLA or the TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio and listen to Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito make the call.