TAMPA — So, Marty St. Louis scored three goals and was plus-4 in the Lightning's 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, and what was his first thought?
"I'm really happy for my youngest, Mason," he said of his 5-year-old son. "All year before I leave (for games), he tells me, 'Get a hat trick, Dad,' and I finally came through for him."
Not only did St. Louis come through in front of an announced crowd of 18,826 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, he is on the verge of history.
His 58 points took the league lead from Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. If St. Louis holds on, he will, at 37, be the oldest winner of the Art Ross Trophy.
Not that St. Louis, who has 16 goals and a league-best 42 assists, wanted to talk about it.
"I'm just going to try to play the right way and finish the year strong," he said, "and see where it takes me."
St. Louis and linemate Steven Stamkos are taking the Lightning (18-24-4) on a pretty interesting ride.
Stamkos had a goal and an assist against Toronto and was plus-5. His 29 goals are two behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, and his 56 points tied Crosby for second.
It is a testament to Crosby that it took 25 days since he was sidelined with a broken jaw to be overtaken in the points race. Even so, St. Louis, who also won the points title in 2004, and Stamkos can be the first teammates to finish one-two in points since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96.
"It looks good, but when you're not in the playoffs, you always wish you could do more," Stamkos said. "It just doesn't feel the same when you're not contributing to wins. If we play the way we did (Wednesday) and win and contribute like that, that's the ultimate goal."
It was a complete effort by the Lightning, which broke a six-game losing streak and benefited in the first period from a couple of Maple Leafs shots off posts.
Radko Gudas shook off a right ankle injury to score the winner with a booming slap shot 3:13 into the third period that broke a 2-2 tie. Nate Thompson had two assists, and goaltender Ben Bishop was solid with 26 saves.
But it was a stunning goal by Stamkos, who fought off defenseman Mark Fraser and roofed a backhand over goalie James Reimer, that earned top play, and St. Louis' seventh career hat trick — finished with an empty-netter — transformed coach Jon Cooper into a fan.
"When I'm outside the coaching realm, how can you not be a fan of what he does?" Cooper said. "He deserves all his accolades."
Especially those he gets from Mason.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.
First Period—1, Toronto, Kessel 17 (Bozak), 17:03. Penalties—None.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 29 (Thompson, Carle), 5:54. 3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 14 (Thompson), 15:48. 4, Toronto, Lupul 11 (MacArthur, Franson), 19:36. Penalties—Purcell, TB (high-sticking), 1:14; Pyatt, TB (tripping), 3:13; MacArthur, Tor (tripping), 17:02.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Gudas 2 (Purcell, Stamkos), 3:13. 6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 15 (Aulie, Tyrell), 13:08. 7, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 16 (Lecavalier), 17:11 (en). Penalties—Fraser, Tor (hooking), 3:59. Shots on Goal—Toronto 6-13-9—28. Tampa Bay 7-9-10—26. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Toronto, Reimer 18-7-5 (25 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 11-9-1 (28-26). A—18,826 (19,204). T—2:26. Referees—Kyle Rehman, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Kiel Murchison, Brian Murphy.