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Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos gets message: "Compete"

BOSTON — Steven Stamkos, with his 20th goal Tuesday, is one from Brad Richards' Lightning rookie mark. But the center was in no mood to celebrate.

"It's a bittersweet thing," he said.

Not only did Tampa Bay lose to the Bruins, Stamkos continued a four-game stretch in which he admitted, "I haven't been playing that well."

So much so, coach Rick Tocchet during the morning skate took RW Marty St. Louis off Stamkos' line and reunited him with C Vinny Lecavalier. Though Stamkos and St. Louis did play together — Tocchet said he did not want Bruins All-Star D Zdeno Chara checking St. Louis and Lecavalier at the same time — the move was a warning.

"His play the last couple of games was not that great," Tocchet said. "We've got to get him competitive again. When you play with Marty, that's a privilege."

Stamkos has just two points, both goals, and seven shots in his past four games.

Tocchet said he worried Stamkos' "compete" level also slipped. Assistant Wes Walz even gave him a video tutorial on Monday's flight from Tampa.

"If you're going to play with Marty, you have to compete like he does," Tocchet said Stamkos was told. "He got the message."

Kind of.

"He was okay," Tocchet said of Tuesday. "It's nice for him to score 20, but he has to continue to play harder."

"It's tough," Stamkos said. "This is the first time in my life not making the playoffs. It's a new experience.

"I still have a lot to play for. You want to prove you can be an elite player, so when next year comes, you can be a go-to-guy."

MASTERTON NOMINEE: D Cory Murphy is Tampa Bay's nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given for perseverance and dedication to hockey. The nomination was made by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Murphy, 31, spent six seasons in Europe before getting a two-year deal with the Panthers. Florida waived Murphy this season after he played just 54 games because persistent shoulder problems.

He had five goals, 15 points in 25 games for Tampa Bay until a Lecavalier shot March 17 against Toronto broke his right foot.

WELCOME HOME: D Matt Lashoff and RW Martins Karsums, acquired from the Bruins in the Mark Recchi deal, faced their former team for the first time to good reviews.

Tocchet said Lashoff, 22, with six assists in eight games, can move the puck and "has some tools to be an NHL defenseman."

He said Karsums, 23, with two assists in 13 games, is a work in progress but has improved.

"I like that he hits and goes to the net," Tocchet said. "There's definitely a job open for him. It's up to him now."

MEMORIES: Recchi said the best part about playing for the Lightning, besides "getting an opportunity to play with some great guys," was being coached by Tocchet and his staff.

"They made a tough situation as fun as possible and bearable."

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay is 3-19-3 with six ties in Boston. … D Matt Smaby played after missing a game with a lower-body injury. … F Paul Szczechura (leg) and LW David Koci were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos gets message: "Compete" 03/31/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 7:15am]

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