WINNIPEG — It was interesting to listen Saturday night as Lightning stars Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis admired each other's work.
Stamkos, in the glow of his historic 60th goal scored in Tampa Bay's season-ending 4-3 overtime win over the Jets at the MTS Centre, called St. Louis "the best play-maker in the game right now."
Said St. Louis: "He pulls the trigger pretty good."
They are joined at the hip, these friends and linemates.
Stamkos' career took off in January 2009, when then-coach Rick Tocchet paired the rookie center with the right wing. St. Louis, 36, has said playing with Stamkos keeps him feeling young.
How appropriate, then, St. Louis got the primary assist as Stamkos, 22, became just the 20th NHL player to score 60 goals in a season.
"I couldn't have written a better script," Stamkos said. "Marty is a huge reason I've had the success I've had in the NHL."
"I wanted to give him a chance," said St. Louis, who also assisted on Stamkos' 50th goal March 13 against the Bruins an on 20 of his goals overall. "I wanted to do my part to help him."
You saw their symbiosis on the 60th goal.
St. Louis had the puck behind the Jets goal line between the net and a corner. Skating slowly backward toward the glass, St. Louis waited for Stamkos to find shooting space in the slot.
"I look for him all the time," St. Louis said. "But when you get close to these marks, you look for him a little more."
Stamkos' goal, 3:29 into the third period, beat Ondrej Pavelec on the short side for a 3-1 lead.
After the game, left wing Ryan Malone gave Stamkos a celebratory shaving cream pie in the face. Players spoke of how happy they were for Stamkos' success.
"I'm just as excited as he is," said right wing Teddy Purcell, who had a hat trick and the winning goal 1:07 into overtime. "It just goes to show how tight of a group we are."
"What I like about Steven's accomplishments is he always makes it a team thing, and the players want to be part of it because of that," coach Guy Boucher said.
"I like the way the players want to do it for him."
None, perhaps, more than St. Louis, who has had a prime seat as Stamkos evolved from a player known primarily for his one-timer to one who can score from anywhere on the ice.
"When he came into the league, everybody was so scared of his one-timer," St. Louis said. "You start having success like that, they're going to start taking it away and it becomes harder and harder. You almost feel like you have to reinvent yourself and find different ways to score goals, and he's done that."
With a pretty good wing man.
"I'm so fortunate to play with him," Stamkos said. "It was nice to share that moment with him."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.