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Top Ten Greatest Tampa Bay Lightning goals of the Yzerman Era

If you ask a Tampa Bay Lightning fan what they think of as the greatest goals in franchise history, there’s certainly a handful that stand out. There’s Chris Kontos’ first, third, and fourth goals in the Lightning’s first ever game that were the team’s first goal, first hat trick, and set the record for most goals in a game by a Lightning player, a record that has yet to be broken. You also have both of Ruslan Fedotenko’s goals that sealed the 2004 Stanley Cup victory. And of course, there’s Martin St. Louis’ second overtime game winner in game six to get the Lightning to that deciding game seven back at home.

In my opinion, none of the goals scored by Lightning players since the Stanley Cup winner compares to any of those great goals. Those were milestone goals that are some of the most important in team history. So instead of trying to go back through the whole of the franchise, let’s cut it down to just the Yzerman Era giving us nine seasons to look for some amazing goals. These are my top ten goals since Steve Yzerman took over for the 2010-11 NHL season. Have a different opinion or feel that I missed a goal? Let me know in the comments and discuss with your fellow fans.

#10 – Victor Hedman scores with 0.1 seconds left on the clock

This goal comes courtesy of Victor Hedman. This goal came in the fourth game of the 2017-18 season on October 12th, 2017 at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With 1:21 left on the clock, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was whistled for delay of game giving the Lightning a power play.

With the clock ticking down, Kucherov deflected a Penguins clearing attempt up along the boards and the puck dribbled to Hedman at the point. With not much time to do anything fancy, Hedman loaded up for a slap shot that took Tom Kuhnhackl down to the ice after blocking the shot. The puck ricocheted off of Kuhnhackl, then off of Alex Killorn. Hedman skated in to the loose puck, and again launched a bomb at net. This time it got in just as the horn sounded to end the period. After a quick review, the overhead camera shows that the puck crossed the line with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. It doesn’t get any closer than that.

#9 – Alex Killorn scores a goal on a crazy re-direction in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final

This goal was the first scored in a Stanley Cup Final by a Lightning player since Ruslan Fedotenko’s game winner in Game Seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. After a dump in by Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula won the puck in the corner. He found Stralman at the point and he took a quick shot that fluttered towards the general vicinity of the net. It’s hard to tell in the video, but it looks like the shot was deflected by a Chicago Blackhawks stick.

Killorn saw the puck all the way and in a terrific display of hand-eye coordination, batted the puck in the air behind him. Corey Crawford had already gone down to stop Stralman’s initial shot and then could not recover fast enough to seal the post. The puck just slipped through the gap between Crawford’s skate and the post to put the Lightning up 1-0 in game one of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

#8 – Nikita Kucherov scores on a breakaway against Braden Holtby with a fake shot

Three different times, Kucherov has used a fake shot to score on a goalie. The first time came during a shootout against the Buffalo Sabres that sealed the win for the Lightning. He also pulled the same maneuver on Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby during the All-Star Game.

But the third one was a masterpiece. Using the same strategy with a different move, Kucherov faked out Holtby and got the puck to slide in through the five hole during a breakaway. Holtby’s immediate reaction is one of “I CAN’T BELIEVE HE DID IT AGAIN!” That reaction in itself is part of what makes this one of the greatest goals of the Yzerman Era.

#7 – Stamkos impossible angle last minute goal to tie the game

Stamkos is known for his one-timers. He’s one of the two best in the game at it. Alex Ovechkin has success with his one-timer combining power and volume of shots. Stamkos though does it with more finesse. During skills competitions at the All-Star Game, when there is a relay that requires a one-timer, he’s always the one that is put down at the bottom of the circle because he has the hands and the accuracy to hit those one-timers almost every time.

This one also falls into that extreme category. Down 3-2 in the third period with under a minute to go, the Lightning had pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker. Stamkos had the puck behind the net, walked out to the side, and passed the puck up to the point for Hedman. Hedman moved towards the center and then put the puck down to Stamkos in the perfect spot. Just a step from the end line, Stamkos one-timed the puck as it got to the bottom of the circle and put it on the perfect angle to slip it behind James Reimer and still get inside the far post to tie the game with six seconds left.

#6 – Tyler Johnson scores in the last second to give a 3-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens

A year after being swept by the Montreal Canadiens, the Lightning were looking for revenge during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the Lightning wouldn’t return the favor of sweeping the Canadiens, they did go on to beat them in game six after dropping games four and five to Montreal.

With the third period winding down in a 1-1 tie, Montreal was under constant pressure in the last minute with the Lightning having numerous chances on goal. The video above only shows the last sequence of Anton Stralman recovering the puck in his own zone, passing it up to Ondrej Palat, then over to Hedman, and then to Johnson in front of the net to put the game away with 1.1 second on the clock. I remember being at the game, seeing the puck in the back of the net, and quickly looking to the scoreboard to see the clock ticking down the last few tenths of a second as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Below is a great video from a fan that was sitting behind the net showing the last minute or so of the game. This video has a much bigger emotional impact for me because you see the Oohs and Aaahs going on in the crowd over that last minute. You get more of a sense of what it was like being a fan sitting in the crowd and enjoying that eruption of emotion when the puck was in the back of the net.

#5 – Nikita Kucherov’s second overtime goal to win game one against the Montreal Canadiens

Going back to the same series in 2015, this was game one in Montreal. The game was a 1-1 tie through regulation and through a full overtime period. After a break following the first overtime period, the teams came back out to continue their effort to finish the game. Brian Boyle and Filppula combined down in the corner to win the puck back. Kucherov coming off the bench received the pass from Filppula right in the slot. He made a slick little move and then put a wrist shot past the best goaltender in the world to finish the game.

Montreal fans were quite upset about the goal and felt it should have been waived off for offsides as they believed that Filppula earlier in the shift had prematurely entered the zone. They are of course wrong and it was a good goal.

#4 – Jason Garrison scores first ever 3-on-3 overtime rules goal

After the AHL had experimented with 3-on-3 overtime rules, the NHL in 2015-16 decided to adopt 3-on-3 for the entirety of the overtime period during the regular season. The NHL was seeking to reduce the number of games that ended in a shootout by opening up the ice for more offense in overtime.

Early on that season, 3-on-3 overtimes were very exciting affairs. Most players went for a wide open approach to overtime and it created end-to-end action and chance-after-chance that was truly a joy to watch, if a little stress inducing. Unfortunately, head coaches would eventually kill that excitement by preaching protecting the puck and leaving the zone if need be to protect the puck and get clean line changes.

But for a moment, we knew that excitement. This was the Lightning’s opening game and at home for the 2015-16 season. While the Lightning were not the first to play that season, they were the first to go to overtime and try out the new 3-on-3 rules. The game itself had been exciting as well with the Philadelphia Flyers having been awarded a penalty shot in the first period that was saved by Ben Bishop. Bishop was again challenged with a penalty shot during overtime and made the save on Scott Laughton to keep the game going. He, and opposing goaltender Steve Mason, faced numerous breakaways and two-on-one challenges and came up strong in the first two minutes of the overtime period.

Garrison ended it though with 2:43 left on the clock. Filppula used a nifty skate move to kick the puck off the boards to Alex Killorn. With Garrison already a little wide of him up the middle and the Flyers caught along the boards, Killorn slid the puck over to Garrison for the breakway. Completely unchallenged, he deked the puck to his right and then backhanded it to slide the puck through the five-hole to score the first goal of 3-on-3 overtime in the NHL.

[Editor’s Note: The goal was not the first ever 3-on-3 overtime goal in NHL history, but the first under the new 3-on-3 overtime rules.]

#3 – Johnson nets Lightning’s first ever playoff hat trick

The 2014-15 NHL Playoffs were quite a run for the Lightning and Tyler Johnson was a big part of it with the Triplets. In game two of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, Johnson came up big once again getting a franchise first as he scored a playoff hat trick.

The first goal came short handed as the Lightning were down two men after Brian Boyle was called for Holding and then Jason Garrison for delay of game. After his former linemate Martin St. Louis fumbled the puck, Killorn collected the puck and slid it to Johnson as he was getting up to speed. St. Louis was almost able to catch up to him and did disrupt the play, but Johnson still slid the puck home. Because St. Louis had crashed into Henrik Lundqvist and the net and taken it off it’s moorings, the referee initially waved off the goal. After video review, the puck had entered the net before the net was dislodged.

Johnson’s second goal came during a four-on-three power play later in the first period with the game tied at 1-1 after a series of penalties Chris Kreider, Ryan Callahan, and Derek Stepan over the span of a minute had made the game go from a Lightning power play to four-on-four, to a Lightning four-on-three power play.

After a Stamkos drive from the center point was blocked in the slot, Stamkos picked the puck back up and passed down to Johnson at the side of the net. He settled the puck down, and delayed looking over his options as he also had Palat on the other side of the net. Johnson saw an opening and wristed the puck far side to beat Lundqvist for his second goal.

The third goal came in the second period with the Lightning up 2-1. Kucherov picked up the puck off the board after a Rangers defenseman fell down creating a two-on-one with Palat. Kucherov passed across to Palat in the offensive zone. Palat’s shot hit the post and Johnson crashed the net with a crowd in front. Johnson took an initial try with the puck only for it to bounce off of Lundqvist. It came out further to the side and Johnson got his stick on the puck once again and slid it home past a sprawling Lundqvist. The play was reviewed and the call on the ice was confirmed give Johnson his hat trick.

#2 –  Martin St. Louis scores four goals to tie Chris Kontos’ franchise record

This game was a very peculiar one. Martin St. Louis picked up his eight, and what would be his last, career hat trick and added a fourth goal to tie Chris Kontos’ franchise record for goals in a game which had stood since the first game in Lightning history. To add to the peculiarity, Joe Pavelski recorded a natural hat trick in the third period picking up the game winning goal with a minute remaining in the game and completing the come back after being down 4-2 following St. Louis’ fourth goal.

St. Louis sandwiched power play goals both assisted by Tyler Johnson and Teddy Purcell around two even strength goals. The two even strength goals were assisted by J.P. Cote and Ben Bishop for the first and J.T. Brown and Mark Barberio for the second one. An interesting connection here that J.P. Cote was just hired by the San Jose Sharks as a scout after deciding to retire.

Honorable Mentions

Before we get to my #1 goal on this list, I had two other goals that I had that didn’t end up making the cut. Instead of depriving you, the readers, of those two goals, here they are.

Kucherov snipes an overtime winner past Henrik Lundqvist

Brian Boyle scores an overtime goal against the New York Islanders

#1 – Steven Stamkos scores his 60th goal of the season

Entering the 2011-12 NHL season, no Lightning player had ever scored 60 goals. The franchise record at the time was 52 goals scored by Vincent Lecavalier in 2006-07 when he won the Rocket Richard trophy. Stamkos had come within one of tying that record when he scored 51 goals in 2009-10.

Well in 2011-12, Stamkos blew past that record scoring 60 goals and it took until the final game of the season to get that last one. The Winnipeg Jets fans, who had a team again after the re-location of the Atlanta Thrashers, gave Stamkos a standing ovation recognizing his achievement. He was the 8th different player to score at least 60 goals since the 1992-93 season and that had been achieved ten times in that span.

The previous time it had happened was when Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals in 2007-08. The gap is even larger to the next previous season with Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux both hitting the 60 goal plateau for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. Five of the ten 60 goal seasons in this span happened during the 1992-93 season.

For Stamkos to hit that plateau in a different era of scoring in the NHL is a most impressive feat. His prowess as a goal scorer may be diminished in part due to the injuries he has dealt with over the past few seasons, but in his early years only Alex Ovechkin was in the conversation with him as the best goal scorer since the 2004 NHL lockout.

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