TAMPA — Steven Stamkos could barely muster a smile Thursday night while talking about his record-setting goal.
His team lost its home finale 4-2 to the Capitals at the St. Pete Times Forum. It just didn't seem right to celebrate setting a Lightning rookie record with his 22nd goal.
Perhaps over the summer, the 19-year-old center said, with some distance from a very difficult season.
"I'll probably look back on it and think more highly of it," Stamkos said. "It's really tough now the way things have been going."
Tampa Bay (24-39-18) lost its eighth straight and 11th in 12 games and will finish last in the league in home wins and points with 12 and 35, respectively.
Whatever happens in Saturday's season finale in Atlanta, the team will finish 29th overall; a step up from 30th last season, though it dropped the Lightning's chances of securing the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's draft lottery from 48.2 to 18.8 percent.
"I think," coach Rick Tocchet said, "a lot of people are looking forward to moving past this year and turning the page."
One on which to linger is the one about Stamkos.
It seems so long ago then-coach Barry Melrose said last summer's No. 1 overall pick wasn't NHL ready and played him accordingly. It is what makes Stamkos' accomplishment so noteworthy.
His goal 36 seconds into the game not only surpassed Brad Richards' mark set in 2000-01, it gave Stamkos 18 in his past 38 games compared with four in his first 40, a reversal credited to diligent work by the coaches and Stamkos' willingness to absorb the lessons.
"I'd be lying if I said that was true," Stamkos said when asked if he believed he would score even 20. "It's a pretty big honor for me, personally. I was just happy to do it on home ice in front of the fans who have been supporting us all year. It's just nice to get that, especially considering the way things went the first part of the year."
It was a pretty goal, with Stamkos breaking for the net and getting a perfect cross-ice feed from Zenon Konopka, who passed from the right-wing boards while diving for the puck and being checked by Brian Pothier.
"I had a sense he was going to get to the puck," Stamkos said. "He's such a competitor, and I knew he was going to make a great effort. I had a chance to go for the puck, but I had a feeling and stayed in the middle of the ice. I just put it on net and was lucky enough it went in."
"The kid's going to be a heck of a player," Konopka said. "It's amazing to be part of his piece of Tampa Bay history."
There could be more to come, Tocchet said:
"Can you imagine if he starts (next season) like the last two months? I'm not going to put any pressure on him. We already did that with the billboards. He just has to be Steven Stamkos. He's a good hockey player, and he's going to continue to grow. If he keeps going like this, he should be on the score sheet most nights."
At the end of a dismal season, a reason to smile.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 22 (Konopka, St. Louis), :36. 2, Washington, Laich 21 (Backstrom, Green), 9:19 (pp). Penalties—Erskine, Was (cross-checking), 2:44; Fedorov, Was (hooking), 6:15; Artyukhin, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:53; Smaby, TB (holding), 8:53; Koci, TB (high-sticking), 16:01; Smaby, TB (slashing), 18:00; Ovechkin, Was (tripping), 19:18.
Second Period—3, Washington, Laich 22 (Green, Nylander), 5:37. 4, Washington, Steckel 8 (Bradley, Aucoin), 6:08. Penalties—Artyukhin, TB (tripping), 3:35; Fedorov, Was (hooking), 8:02; Morrisonn, Was (interference), 13:55.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Pettinger 7 (Szczechura, Mihalik), 12:53. 6, Washington, Green 31, 19:55 (en). Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Washington 6-12-15—33. Tampa Bay 12-7-5—24. Power-play opportunities—Washington 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 0 of 5. Goalies—Washington, Theodore 32-16-5 (24 shots-22 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 4-10-7 (32-29). A—18,891 (19,758).