TAMPA— Steven Stamkos wouldn’t call himself an emotional guy, but he got emotional Monday night.
It wasn’t necessarily that he broke the Lightning franchise goal record that made Stamkos emotional. It was the emotion shared with the fans in the crowd.
He scored goal No. 384 to pass Vinny Lecavalier. Not only did his new Lightning franchise goal record earn a standing ovation, but that applause continued even once play resumed.
That was when it hit Stamkos.
“You’re just not prepared for moments like this,” Stamkos said after the 4-1 win over Arizona. “There are only two goals that have made me feel like this. That was the 60th in Winnipeg and this one here tonight. To do it at home, if I could have drawn it up, that’s the way I would have liked it to happen.”
The other piece Stamkos wanted was to break the record in a win. The captain did better than that.
Because there’s always more in this historic season, he broke the record as the Lightning clinched the first Presidents’ Trophy (for the most points in the league) in franchise history.
Victor Hedman has been with Stamkos 10 of Stamkos’ 11 seasons. He tried to think how many goals that means he’s seen. Out of 384, maybe 360 he ball-parked.
“The guys that are No. 2 and 3 on that list are in the rafters so you know that’s where he’s heading,” Hedman said referring to Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis respectively.
Both Lecavalier and St. Louis knew this day was coming. Lecavalier saw it from the first one-timer he ever saw Stamkos take in practice. He knew his record was going to fall then.
“Steven is the best goal-scorer in Lightning history and now he has the record to prove it,” Lecavalier said in a statement provided by the team. “How he’s gotten to 384 - all the adversity, scoring from all over the ice - and still managing to set the record in a relatively small number of games is remarkable and further establishes Stammer as one of the top goal-scorers in the history of the game. It’s an honor to call him a friend and a teammate.”
St. Louis is proud to have been a part of some of Stamkos’ early goals. He said he enjoys watching “him do his thing” and knows there are many more goals to come.
Someone else from Stamkos’ past was in the building, too.
Arizona coach Rick Tocchet knows exactly what Stamkos means to the franchise; he coaches Stamkos in his first year with the Lightning. The opposing coach doesn’t usually recognize a goal, but Tocchet gave Stamkos a thumbs up as he skated by.
“Did I know he’d break the record? Yeah, if you had asked me back then, I would have said yes,” Tocchet said before the game. "With his shot and hands? When he had those injuries, you’re concerned. But his level of play is still the same. Great kid. His teammates love him. He’s still great in the community. He’s just a complete guy.”
Stamkos appreciated that nod from Tocchet and that he was there to share in the moment, even if it was from the other bench.
Like Lecavalier, coach Jon Cooper and general manager Julien BriseBois referenced how quickly Stamkos reached this mark. He’s scored an average of 0.52 goals a game over 11 years. It took Lecavalier 14 years to reach 383.
“Steven Stamkos was a guy that by his 29th birthday, would he think he would be the leading scorer of the franchise?” Cooper said. “That’s an unbelievable accomplishment for him to say that, well, until another Steven Stamkos comes along. Those are the few and far between.”
BriseBois recognized Stamkos as the established face of the franchise since he joined the Lightning at age 18.
“The speed at which he was able to take over the franchise’s career goals record is fitting and speaks to how incredible a goal scorer he is,” he said. “He just turned 29! He might only be halfway through what is already an illustrious career. The fact that he has scored 30+ goals again this year (and counting) while playing what I think is his best all around hockey is an important reason why our team was able to win the Presidents’ Trophy this season.”
Then there’s Stamkos’ dad. Stamkos credited his parents with making sacrifices to get him to this point. He calls his dad after most games still (and said he’d be the first call when he got to his phone on Monday).
“Breaking the record of one of the franchise’s greatest players demonstrates Steven’s dedication to the Tampa Bay organization and its continued success,” Chris said. “He has had the privilege of playing with some great players in Vinny, Marty, Heddy and Kuch along with many others who have helped him achieve this special accomplishment.”
Stamkos ran into Lecavalier at dinner Sunday night. He said maybe that was an omen.
Either way, it couldn’t have worked out better for Stamkos to set a franchise record on a night he helped the organization for another first in this historic season.