TAMPA — Make no mistake, Monday was Marty St. Louis Night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Lightning captain knew emotions would be high during a pregame ceremony celebrating his 1,000th career game, played last week. His parents, wife and three sons were going to be there as he received gifts and tributes.
An hour before faceoff, coach Jon Cooper put St. Louis' nerves at ease with a prescient prediction.
"He was just like, 'God, I hope I can keep this together, I'm a wimp when it comes to this stuff, I'm going to start crying,' " Cooper said. "So we're laughing. I'm like, 'Nobody is going to really remember that when you have two (goals) and one (assist).' "
St. Louis said he'll always remember Monday's 5-0 win over the Rangers, when he followed Cooper's script, racking up two goals and an assist. It helped snap the Lightning's four-game losing streak as well as a mini-slump for St. Louis, who had one goal in his previous 12 games.
"It was a special night," he said. "I felt like myself (Monday). I felt like it was a flash in the past."
There were many flashbacks for St. Louis, with former teammate and good buddy Brad Richards, now with the Rangers, helping present him with a framed timeline of his career, one of his many gifts. Injured star Steven Stamkos stepped on the ice for the first time since breaking his right leg two weeks ago, handing him a leather-bound scrapbook. A video montage began with more than a decade of highlights.
"I kind of lost it," St. Louis said. "But you have to play."
St. Louis settled down after scoring on a partial breakaway about three minutes in. But not after wiping out during his trademark fist-pumping celebration, falling on his back before popping up with a smile.
"I took a nice fall," he quipped. "I didn't really care, I was so excited to score. I've done that pump a few times, maybe it was a little too hard this time."
Goaltender Ben Bishop said players like St. Louis "rise to the occasion." So Bishop, though he was outstanding in his 37-save shutout for Tampa Bay (15-8-1), didn't mind getting overshadowed by St. Louis. "He worked a lot of years to get here," Bishop said. "One little shutout is not going to mean anything."
Wing Teddy Purcell had two goals, and rookie Nikita Kucherov scored his first NHL goal — on the first shot of his first shift. But the night belonged to St. Louis, who watched nearly a dozen video tributes from former teammates and coaches, "people that helped me along the way." Freddy Modin. Vinny Lecavalier. Dan Boyle. Even former coach John Tortorella.
They all told St. Louis to enjoy his night, and he sure did.
"It was a little storybook," Cooper said. "The stars aligned tonight."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 1 (Purcell, Brewer), 2:12. 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 9 (Filppula, Hedman), 3:10. Penalties—Dorsett, NYR, major (fighting), 2:14; Labrie, TB, major (fighting), 2:14; Del Zotto, NYR (high-sticking), 5:15; Brewer, TB (hooking), 9:26; Hedman, TB (holding), 13:42.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 10 (Filppula, Sustr), 3:12. 4, Tampa Bay, Purcell 6, 16:52. Penalties—Killorn, TB (hooking), 5:51; Crombeen, TB (slashing), 6:49; Staal, NYR (interference), 9:01; Stralman, NYR (high-sticking), 11:34.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Purcell 7 (St. Louis, Killorn), 18:59. Penalties—Killorn, TB (hooking), 2:19; Hedman, TB (cross-checking), 11:19. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Rangers 17-10-10—37. Tampa Bay 10-12-3—25. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Rangers 0 of 6; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 7-10-0 (22 shots-18 saves), Talbot (0:00 third, 3-2). Tampa Bay, Bishop 14-3-1 (37-37). A—19,204 (19,204). T—2:23. Referees—Ghislain Hebert, Francois St. Laurent. Linesmen—Andy McElman, Anthony Sericolo.