TAMPA — C Steven Stamkos knew once the puck was dropped at center ice for his third-period penalty shot that he'd try the spin-o-rama move.
Stamkos had been fed up with his struggles in shootouts and penalty shots, so he tried to "switch it up."
"And it worked," he said, smiling.
It sure did. Stamkos skated hard toward Canadiens G Carey Price, stopped before the crease, spun and backhanded the puck into the net for a back-breaking goal, making the score 3-1 Thursday.
"It's a move that works a majority of the time," said Stamkos, who is 4-for-17 in shootouts for his career. "I've done it in practice a bunch of times. It works every time."
The goal electrified the Lightning bench with teammates getting a kick out of Stamkos' creativity and courage. Though Tampa Bay had been irked this month when Oilers rookie Linus Omark did a spin-o-rama at the blue line against it during a shootout attempt (he scored against Dan Ellis), that move was viewed as showboating. Stamkos' was viewed as a move to score.
"You never know what (Stamkos) can do," said D Victor Hedman. "He's one of the best players in the league, so he can do that kind of stuff. I wouldn't do it. I try to keep it simple. It takes a lot of nerve to do that, but he's on a roll here."
Stamkos had two goals (and four points), giving him 31 for the season, second in the league to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (32). But coach Guy Boucher said that more than scoring, he was impressed by the way the center made his penalty-shot break by skating hard through the defense and how he took charge in the game, two things he has been doing more of lately.
"He's getting better defensively every game. He's winning important faceoffs and things that, as a youngster, he wasn't necessarily doing at the beginning of the year," Boucher said. "For me and the rest of the organization, that's more important than coming out with two goals. He's the new kid on the block that eventually is going to take over the St. Louis and the Lecavaliers and those guys. Those are big shoes to fill because those guys are leaders."
MEDICAL MATTERS: RW Steve Downie (high ankle sprain) skated with the team Thursday for the first time since sustaining the injury Dec. 2. Boucher said there's a "high probability" he could be ready to play in a game on next week's road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh. Downie said it was fun being back on the ice with his teammates but he needs more hard practices to get his legs back into game shape.
MISCELLANY: D Pavel Kubina's second-period goal gave him the most goals by a defenseman in franchise history (67), passing Dan Boyle. … D Randy Jones returned to the lineup after missing one game due to an upper-body injury. The Lightning went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with D Matt Smaby in and C Mattias Ritola a scratch.