91 Days of Stamkos: Day 42, this day in Stamkos history
A year ago, Steven Stamkos tied the game and set up a winner against Nashville
Opponent: Nashville Predators
Stamkos’s Stat Line: 1 Goal 1 Assist 7 shots 19:48 TOI
Result: 4-3 (OT) Win
Believe it or not, there were times in the 2015-16 season that the Tampa Bay Lightning struggled. While it was nothing like what they’re experiencing this season, there were some down moments along the the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. The middle of February was one of those stretches.
Coming into the game, the Lightning dropped two in a row on the road, losing 5-1 to Ottawa and 4-2 to Montreal. Stamkos was mired in a stretch where he had only scored one goal in his past 10 games. The good news for that night was that they were back at Amalie Arena where they had yet to lose in 2016, winning all eight games they’d played to that point.
Things did not start well when Mike Fisher beat Ben Bishop with a shot that should have been stopped:
The Lightning bounced back in the second, scoring two goals to take the lead. The first goal came from the unholy line combination of Val Filppula, Ryan Callahan and JT Brown. Brown established position in front of the net and kept whacking away until he put it past Pekka Rinne.
The second goal, less than two minutes later, showed the brilliance of Nikita Kucherov. Receiving a rink-long pass from Nikita Nesterov, he managed to keep control of the puck despite being mugged by Ryan Ellis. With one hand on his stick and momentum carrying him away from the goaltender, he slid it between the pads. It was one of his most impressive goals of the season.
The Lightning weren’t able to keep control of the game and the Predators came back with James Neal and Filip Forsberg scoring goals. It looked like the Lightning would be dropping their third straight as time wound off the clock. With under a minute to go and on the power play, the Lightning pulled Bishop for the 6-on-4 advantage. Steven Stamkos got the chance to be a hero. Actually he got several chances to be the hero. Four times in the next 20 seconds he found himself in position to unleash a one timer from the top of the circle.
First opportunity- his shot hit the iron
Second opportunity - Rinne made the save
Third opportunity - he tried a cross-ice pass to Kucherov
Fourth opportunity - pay dirt
With 27 seconds left on the clock, his 22nd goal of the season tied the game and sent it to overtime. It was the quintessential Steven Stamkos shot. The puck arrived from Hedman flat and on Stamkos’ back foot. He got everything into it and beat Rinne clean on the glove side with a low, hard shot.
The beauty of this shot is that Rinne was in position to stop it. There was no screen, Rinne was flush to the shot and still it beat him. There aren’t many players in the NHL that can beat a top-notch goaltender like Rinne on a clean shot from that far out.
With the game tied and in overtime, Stamkos came over the boards on a line change and received a pass from Tyler Johnson, who was behind the Lightning net. Stamkos did a good job of controlling the puck in between two Predators, and then kicked it over to Hedman.
Johnson had inside position on the Predator who was marking him and Hedman hit him in stride (this game was a testament to Hedman’s ability not only to pass the puck, but pass it where it needed to be for his teammate to make a play). Johnson managed to squeeze the puck between Rinne’s pads and the Lightning earned the victory.
After the game Stamkos said that his “mindset was to just try and get some pucks on net.” When asked if he was surprised he could get perfectly set up that late in a tie game, Stamkos laughed and said, “Keep feeding me”. That’s actually not a bad offensive strategy.
The Lightning lost the next two games (and Stamkos was held goalless), but then they went on a nine-game winning streak that eliminated any doubt they would make the playoffs. Stamkos scored goals in six straight and seven of the nine wins on his way to another 30+ goal season.