Steven Stamkos has only played four games at the Honda Center. Sadly, he won’t be adding to that total this year. It was also the sight of the first healthy scratch of his career, an experience he called a “learning tool.” Learn he did as he ripped off five points in the next six games. A season later, he finally played his first game in the Honda Center, and he scored arguably the greatest goal of his career.
On November 19th, the Lightning strolled into Anaheim and promptly found themselves down 3-0 seven minutes into the second period. Things weren’t looking good for a team that hadn’t lost in regulation in their last 5 road games, and picked up points in 10 of their previous 11 games.
Jeff Halpern started the comeback 30 seconds after the Ducks scored their third goal. Eighteen seconds after that, Steven Stamkos would do this:
The brilliant effort helped the team gain a point in the standings as the Lightning tied the game in the third on a Marty St. Louis goal. Anaheim won in overtime, but Stamkos’ goal would be the highlight of the night.
When it happened, John broke it down frame-by-frame on Raw Charge, but it’s worth taking another look. Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller played it perfectly. From sealing off the post so that Vinny Lecavalier could not sneak one past him, to squaring up on Stamkos and rising up to make a save on the initial one-timer (a feat that is beyond many goalies).
Unfortunately, Hiller had two things going against him: Stamkos’ hand-eye co-ordination and the fact that Hiller catches with his right hand. Even though Stamkos was wildly off balance (and in a position that would lead to a pulled hamstring for a lot of us) his hands were still on his stick and in position to give a solid swing at the puck. In typical Stamkosian fashion he deflected credit for the goal stating that, “...I was kind of falling backwards so I thought I would take a whack at it. I was lucky enough that it hit my stick and went in.”
He was also lucky that Hiller wears his catching glove on his wrong hand. If he was a traditional goaltender he’d be flailing at the floating puck with his stick and have had a better chance of blocking it.
It was Stamkos’ 14th goal in 19 games, a far cry from the 2 goals he had through the same amount of games the year before. It also helped generate Olympic buzz for Stamkos. Despite ending his rookie season strongly, the chances of him donning the maple leaf sweater for his country were slim. His hot start brought his name into the discussion. In the end it wasn’t enough as he was left off of the team that won the gold medal, most likely because the team was extremely deep in the center position.
Not being chosen for the team (a decision partly made by his now-General Manager Steve Yzerman) did help motivate him for the rest of the season. It was a season that saw him win his first Maurice Richard trophy with 51 goals, none prettier than that one in Anaheim.