Fifty. It’s one of those magic numbers in hockey, especially when it comes to goals. Ever since Steven Stamkos has entered the league, the 50-goal mark has been hit or eclipsed exactly ten times by five different players. Alex Ovechkin has done it a remarkable five times, Stamkos twice, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Corey Perry once. If you include his 50th career goal, Stamkos has three pucks hanging on the wall with the number 50 on them.
50th Career Goal
Stamkos’ 50th career goal came in a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on January 23, 2010, on the power play. Kurtis Foster and Ryan Malone picked up the assists. It was a typical Steven Stamkos goal — a one-timer from the top of the left circle.
The Lightning won the game in a shootout that featured not one, not two, but THREE poke-checks by the two goaltenders. There was also a disallowed goal, and Antero Niittymaki making five stops in the shootout to go along with the 37 saves he made during the game.
Stamkos was denied in the shootout. He made a nice move and had Johan Hedberg leaning the wrong way, but couldn’t put it over the goaltender’s outstretched leg. With the miss Stamkos dropped to 2 for 11 on shootout attempts.
First 50-goal season
Later that same season, with his dad in the crowd, Stamkos became the first Lighting player since Vincent Lecavalier to score 50 goals in a season, when he scored against the Florida Panthers on April 10, 2010.
It came, unsurprisingly, on the power play. Instead of a trademark one-timer, Stamkos wristed this one in from just outside the right face-off circle. Scott Clemmensen never saw it thanks to a Zenon Konopka screen. Konopka and Andrej Meszaros picked up the assists on Stamkos’ second power play goal of the night.
It was another shootout win for the Lightning. This time Stamkos scored in the skills competition to give the Lightning the 4-3 win. Stamkos would score his 51st goal the next night against the Panthers to claim his share of the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Stamkos was the third youngest player to eclipse the 50-goal mark in a season, having been bested only by Wayne Gretzky and Jimmy Carson. As usual, Stamkos was humble after the game when talking about the record, thanking his teammates. “I’m sure a lot of guys were passing up opportunities and were trying to get the puck to me. I want to thank them for that. It was pretty special to do it on home ice in a win.”
Second 50-goal season
After taking a season off from scoring 50 goals, Stamkos was right back at it in 2011-12. Once again he scored his 49th and 50th goals in the same game, a 6-1 beating of the Boston Bruins on March 13, 2012.
Stamkos took the pinpoint pass from his friend and mentor Marty St. Louis, and found himself alone after Tyler Seguin (who was a -4 in the game) dove? tripped? while trying to break up the pass. Should Marty Turco have made the stop on a puck that beat him gloveside? Probably, but it didn’t look like the Bruins cared that much at that point of the game.
It was a heads-up play by Teddy Purcell to grab the puck from the back of the net and pass it along to Stamkos to make sure he got the souvenir. After the game, Stamkos seemed to be more relieved than happy, “It’s nice to get this over with,” he told the Tampa Bay Times, “It’s going to take a little bit of the pressure off.”
Without pressure, Stamkos went on to pot 11 more goals that season to end with a franchise-record 61 goals and his first outright Richard Trophy.
Hopefully for Lightning fans, that day in in 2012 won’t be the last time Steven Stamkos celebrates the number 50.