In 2015, not many months after Tampa Bay lost the Stanley Cup Final in six games, Steven Stamkos sat down with George Stroumboulopoulos at NHL Media Day. It was one of Strombo’s round tables with players, and Stamkos took his place at the table next to Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
At about the six minute mark, Strombo turned to Karlsson and asked, "What's the best goal you ever scored?" After Karlsson weighed in, Crosby answered that his favorite goal was one against Tampa, where he slid down the ice on his side while knocking the puck out of the air and into the net. "It was my first or second year," Crosby said. "Oh, well I wasn't there," Stamkos replied, looking relieved.
Then Stamkos answered the question. "For me it would have to be Anaheim. It was my first or second year. Shot it, kind of fell down, and batted it out of the air as I was falling down. It was complete luck, but it looked like I knew what I was doing at the time."
The goal Stamkos is talking about occurred in a November 19, 2009 road game at Honda Center. Under coach Randy Carlyle, Anaheim had a three-goal lead on the Bolts to begin the second. Then Tampa came back to score two, and Marty St. Louis scored the third in the last frame to push the game to overtime.
The two goals scored in the second came within 18 seconds of each other. Jeff Halpern opened scoring for the Bolts by burying a behind-the-net pass from Steve Downie. On the faceoff after the goal, Stamkos scored his 14th of the season on Ducks’ goaltender Jonas Hiller.
This one guy wearing Tampa Bay Lightning’s #4 went behind Hiller’s net to corral a loose puck and spotted Stamkos free to the goalie’s left. The pass somehow got elevated, bobbling into the air, and Stamkos went nearly into the splits as he tried to figure out the best angle to return it. Sliding to one knee for balance, Stamkos batted the puck straight into the net. And just like that, the game was 3-2.
At that point in the 2009-10 season, Tampa was winning more than they were losing (8-4-6), with a total of 22 points in 18 games. Under coach Rick Tocchet, who had just been signed to head coach status, Stamkos was playing an average of 20:33 minutes on ice. This was also Stamkos’ first Rocket Richard season, and although the Bolts ended the season falling short of the playoffs (triggering Tocchet’s firing by brand new owner Jeff Vinik), Stamkos ended the season with 51 goals and 44 assists under his belt.
Stamkos also scored a career number of power play goals that season at 24.
For a guy that says this goal was complete luck, Stamkos really does look like he knew what he was doing. Tampa Bay lost this game 4-3 on the strength of an overtime goal scored by Scott Niedermayer, but this goal will live in history as one of Stamkos’ coolest.