The Tampa Bay Lightning saw the return of their captain Steven Stamkos and you could see from the jump that it gave a boost to the team’s energy and level of play. Nikita Kucherov got things started by getting a pass from Ondrej Palat and scoring on a breakaway.
Then it happened.
Steven Stamkos, on his third shift and first shot attempt, scored a goal for the first time since February 25.
Things got a little dicey when the Stars were able to steal momentum away with a short handed goal. Following Stammer’s goal, the Stars had the next nine shots on goal. Then, to add even more concern, Stamkos went back to the locker room and didn’t return until midway through the second period.
Thankfully, the Lightning didn’t need him.
The floodgates opened up, starting with a Victor Hedman power play goal to make the score 3-1. By the end of the period, both Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point added goals to make it 5-1 and relegate Stars’ goalie Anton Khudobin to the bench for the third period.
The Stars were able to tack one on in the third to make it 5-2 but the game was well over before that point. The thing that stood out in the third period were the number of dirty hits by the Stars down the stretch. Joe Pavelski decided to crosscheck Barclay Goodrow from behind in the ribs, Pat Maroon was driven face first into the boards by two players, and the hits just didn’t stop.
Perhaps it was frustration. Perhaps it was trying to gain an advantage for Friday’s game four by inflicting as much pain and punishment on Tampa Bay as humanly possible. Either way, the referees swallowed their whistles and allowed things to escalate too far. As it tends to happen in the postseason, the refs were officiating the score – not the game.
Stamkos never took another shift after the first period and he really didn’t need to. The question remains whether or not he will be available to play in game four. If his injury was reaggravated or he tweaked something, he may need the extra day rest and potentially return in game five. That is certainly something to monitor in the next two days.
After the game, Stamkos said he had an issue in the game and it’s too early to tell if he’ll be ready to go in game four. He would also say, ”
“It was an amazing experience to share with my teammates. There’s been a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, so to get into a game and have an impact on a game when a month ago that might not have been possible… I was just happy to contribute.”