TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher made sure C Steven Stamkos was on the ice Tuesday when the Senators pulled their goalie.
"He deserved a goal," Boucher said. "He's deserved a goal so many games."
Stamkos got his 44th to tie Anaheim's Corey Perry for the league lead but only his first in seven games and fourth in 22. "Sometimes," Stamkos said, "all it takes is a goal like that."
Stamkos is not predicting 50 goals for the second straight season. He needs six in his last six games for that.
He said he is not even concerned with the milestone: "That's not on my mind right now. I'm just focused on getting my game ready for this last push to the playoffs and get it to where I'm comfortable and confident. Whatever happens production-wise, happens."
Stamkos had eight shots in the 5-2 victory over Ottawa. Boucher praised his two-way game, from where so much offense is triggered.
Stamkos delivered the hit of the game when he leveled Ryan Shannon with a clean face-to-face blow.
"I'm really confident in my game right now," Stamkos said. "I feel strong out there. My skating is good. I'm driving the puck to the net."
Still, Boucher said he believes Stamkos has been too fine with his shots and just needs to get pucks on net.
Perhaps that is why he hit so many posts. Boucher said he joked with Stamkos that "the post can't exist anymore."
Stamkos agreed. "Sometimes when you go through these things, you think it's going to take the perfect shot."
That is why the open net was such a nice target, though he could have passed to C Dominic Moore, who was one goal shy of a hat trick.
"But everyone on the bench was screaming 'You're alone.' When I chipped it by (Ottawa D) Erik Karlsson, I kind of had a breakaway."
And a long-awaited goal.
GAGNE RISING: There is no secret why he suddenly got hot, Simon Gagne said.
"I just stuck to what I was doing even when I was struggling," said the left wing, with six goals and 12 points in seven games. "I wasn't getting negative, stay at the same level and be positive."
Boucher sees a difference.
"Physically involved," he said. "If you look at (Saturday's win against the Hurricanes), I have about 20 clips of him finishing checks or winning battles and forcing himself with the puck or without the puck at their net."
MALONE SIGHTING: W Ryan Malone, out 21 games with what is believed to be a groin injury, is expected to play Thursday against the Penguins.
ODDS AND ENDS: Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee recognized the management of the St. Pete Times Forum for efforts to reduce drunken driving by inviting deputies to conduct training sessions with arena employees about responsible alcohol serving. … Sun Sports' Inside the Lightning: Blueprint for Success is at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. … D Matt Smaby and F Mattias Ritola were scratched.