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Stamkos scores 59th, Tampa Bay Lightning loses to Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO — Every time Steven Stamkos churned up ice with the puck Thursday night, the crowd at the Air Canada Centre buzzed.

It didn't matter the Lightning center plays for the opposition. He grew up in nearby Unionville.

So, while Maple Leafs fans applauded a 3-2 overtime victory, Stamkos' family and friends, and the locals who simply watched him grow as a player, cheered his 59th goal and rooted for him as he tried, but failed, to get No. 60.

"It was nice," Stamkos said. "Any time you come back and play in your home city, it's always fun. You always get up for that game. I'd like to be in the playoffs, but (it) felt a little more special trying to get a couple of goals."

Stamkos, 22, has one more game — Saturday in Winnipeg — to become the second NHL player in 15 seasons to reach 60 and the first since Washington's Alex Ovechkin scored 65 in 2007-08.

"If I do score, it's going to be a big one," Stamkos said. "But I'm not focused on it. I'm going to get my chances."

He got plenty against Toronto, tying a season best with eight shots. And his goal 8:48 into the third period on a tap-in of Bruno Gervais' backdoor pass gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead.

But Dion Phaneuf got the winner with 58.9 seconds left in the extra period off a rebound of Phil Kessel's shot off the end boards. That came after rookie Brett Connolly followed a rush to the net by Toronto's Jake Gardiner and inadvertently batted a puck past Roloson with 2:55 left in the third period to tie the score 2-2.

"He feels really bad, but that's why he's on the ice, to get experience," coach Guy Boucher of Connolly. "He's going to remember that one."

Marty St. Louis scored his 25th goal for the Lightning, and Roloson was solid again with 28 saves as Tampa Bay (38-37-6) had a 37-31 shot advantage.

But it was Stamkos who was the center of attention, even among the Maple Leafs.

"I just didn't want to give up No. 60," goalie Ben Scrivens said. "It would have been on the highlight reels all summer."

Scrivens got lucky on Stamkos' second-period breakaway on which the center's wrist shot went high and wide. He barely got a shoulder on another wrist shot after Stamkos whirled to get into shooting position.

Stamkos finally scored from an open spot near a post behind the Maple Leafs defense.

"He's so natural," Gervais said. "He finds a way to go backdoor and find that little spot."

"It was one of those games where I didn't think it was going to go in," Stamkos said. "It was nice to get one."

One more to go.

Maple Leafs 1 0 1 1 3
Lightning 1 0 1 0 2
Maple Leafs 1 0 1 1 3
Lightning 1 0 1 0 2

First Period1, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 25 (Lee, Malone), 5:49. 2, Toronto, T.Connolly 13 (Gardiner, Steckel), 6:32. PenaltiesMikkelson, TB (hooking), 9:27.

Second PeriodNone. PenaltiesBrewer, TB (holding), 15:30.

Third Period3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 59 (Gervais, St. Louis), 8:48. 4, Toronto, Gardiner 7, 17:05. PenaltiesNone.

Overtime5, Toronto, Phaneuf 11 (Kessel), 4:01. PenaltiesNone. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 8-17-12-0—37. Toronto 13-5-11-2—31. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 0; Toronto 0 of 2. GoaliesTampa Bay, Roloson 12-16-3 (31 shots-28 saves). Toronto, Scrivens 4-4-2 (37-35). A19,369 (18,819). T2:34. Referees—Paul Devorski, Steve Kozari. LinesmenBrad Kovachik, Derek Nansen.

Leafs 3

Lightning 2

overtime

Stamkos scores 59th, Tampa Bay Lightning loses to Toronto Maple Leafs 04/05/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 6, 2012 12:32am]

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