TAMPA — Just about every time Steven Stamkos sat on the Lightning bench Tuesday night, he saw the sign.
He wasn't looking for it, necessarily, but it was right in his line of sight, across the ice and in a corner of the lower level of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"I drove from Ontario to see Stamkos score 50" it read.
And what do you know? The NHL's brightest young star accommodated the visitor from his home province with two goals — 49 and 50 — in a 6-1 victory over the Bruins.
"It's special," Stamkos, 22, said. "That's the magical number in hockey. I was fortunate to do it once, and to do it twice is just as special."
And it puts him in special company as just the sixth player — with Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin and Joe Nieuwendyk — to reach the mark twice before age 23.
"It's pretty surreal," Stamkos said.
Stamkos' feat sucked a lot of oxygen out of the room, but it should be noted goaltender Dustin Tokarski made 33 saves for his first NHL win in his third start. He got his first point as well with an assist.
"It feels amazing," Tokarski, 22, said. "I'm kind of at a loss for words right now."
Tokarski had to be sharp in the second and third periods when the Stanley Cup champions outshot the Lightning 32-7 on the way to a 34-17 edge.
By then, though, Tampa Bay (32-30-7) led by four after a first period in which it outshot Boston 10-2 and got goals from Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson, Ryan Shannon and Victor Hedman; the first three coming in 2:35 for a 3-0 lead 4:31 into the game.
Still, "We needed to push back," coach Guy Boucher said. "We kept saying it, press, stay in their face."
"It's human nature when you have that lead, guys tend to think more defensively," Stamkos said. "They did press at times and Dustin was great. He made some big saves."
That couldn't be said of Boston's Marty Turco and Tim Thomas. Thomas knocked in Stamkos' second-period wraparound. Turco looked awkward on Stamkos' 50th, a low, zippy wrist shot off a Marty St. Louis pass with 7:13 left in the third.
"Wild," is how Boucher described the bench after the goal.
Stamkos, the first Lightning player to twice score 50 goals, is 12 ahead of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in second place. With 13 more games he surely will pass the 51 he had in 2009-10, when he tied Sidney Crosby for the league lead, and perhaps Vinny Lecavalier's team-record 52.
But just to be sure, Stamkos joked about the person with the sign, "We should make sure he's back."
First—1, T.B., Pyatt 8 (Malone, Connolly), 1:56. 2, T.B., Thompson 9 (Hall, Wyman), 2:26. 3, T.B., Shannon 4 (Hedman, Tokarski), 4:31 (pp). 4, T.B., Hedman 4, 15:38. Penalties—Thornton, Bos (roughing), 2:54; Paille, Bos (slashing), 13:06; Thornton, Bos, major (fighting), 16:08; Commodore, TB, major (fighting), 16:08.
Second—5, T.B., Stamkos 49 (Purcell, Lee), 3:06. Penalties—Commodore, TB (tripping), 19:25.
Third—6, Boston, Caron 7 (Boychuk, Chara), 1:55. 7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 50 (St. Louis, Lee), 11:43. Penalties—Tokarski, TB, served by Connolly (delay), 3:13; Hedman, TB (holding), 7:13; Seguin, Bos (high-sticking), 14:14. Shots—Boston 2-15-17—34. Tampa Bay 10-3-4—17. Power plays—Boston 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Boston, Turco 0-1-0 (12 shots-8 saves), Thomas (4:31 first, 5-3), Turco 0-1-0 (3:06 second). Tampa Bay, Tokarski 1-1-1 (34-33). A—19,204 (19,204). T—2:28.
Steven Stamkos became just the sixth player to score 50 goals in a season twice before age 23 on Tuesday. And Stamkos just turned 22 last month. Here are the six who have pulled off the feat and the age they were at the end of their second 50-goal season:
|Player||First 50-goal season||Second|
|Steven Stamkos (22)||51 (2009-10)||50* (2011-12)|
|Alex Ovechkin (23)||52 (2005-06)||65 (2007-08)|
|Joe Nieuwendyk (22)||51 (1987-88)||51 (1988-89)|
|Mario Lemieux (22)||54 (1986-87)||70 (1987-88)|
|Wayne Gretzky (20)||51 (1979-80)||55 (1980-81)|
|Mike Bossy (22)||53 (1977-78)||69 (1978-79)|
* — With 13 games left