TAMPA—Steven Stamkos continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL.
He scores on breakaways, he scores on contested plays. He scores on one-timers and on pretty wrist shots. He scores while falling down. On Monday, Stamkos scored his ninth career hat trick with two power-play one-timers, and one while going to the ice.
It was his ninth career hat trick, one more than Martin St. Louis had and most in team history.
"He's a natural," defenseman Victor Hedman said after the 6-3 win over the Rangers to extend the win streak to seven games. "And he's proven that for 11 years. He's a pure goal scorer in this league and one of the best there is."
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Stamkos has demonstrated his play-making ability this year. But if you need any proof that he, is a goal scorer, consider his point breakdown. Stamkos is one of few high-point players with more goals than assists.
He is on a tear right now. He has seven points, five goals, in the past two games. Monday's second goal was Stamkos' 700th career point, and he did so in game No. 696.
It's not just that he's scoring, but how Stamkos is scoring. The second goal, in particular, was a shot not many NHL players can make, never mind the rest of the hockey world.
The pass was a little off target and Stamkos lost his footing as he took the shot. But even as he went to the ice, Stamkos got off a well-placed, hard shot. It wasn't just flung on net by any means.
"That's something you work on as a shooter," Stamkos said. "Not every pass is going to be perfect, as much as you'd like it to be. Sometimes, you catch the goalie by surprise a little bit. I surprised myself a little with the velocity that I was able to get off on that one."
Hedman, who fed him that pass laughed as he joked, "It was a good pass, I don't know what he did."
Coach Jon Cooper admired Stamkos' ability to adjust to just about wherever the puck comes from. It certainly wasn't the first Stamkos has scored while falling.
Two of Stamkos' goal, including that one falling to the ice, came from the left faceoff dot, AKA Stamkos' sweet spot.
"That's his 700th point tonight," Cooper said. "How many of those are goals? At least half of those are goals. And I'd like to know the percentage from that spot. He scores them all in different ways from that area."
Stamkos' first goal was his old-standby: the one-timer from that dot on the power play. The third was very similar but a few feet off. That time, the one-timer came from the slot and even strength.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh knows a lot about going up against Stamkos. He used to do it for the Rangers and now he does it in practice.
"You feel like you've got the lane, you feel like you're in the right spot, and he can shoot it by you," he said. "More importantly, his power play's ability to find him when you least expect it. Obviously, (Nikita Kucherov) making some plays and Heddy finding him off scrambles. That's a great sign that they are able to execute there under pressure and make things happen off of pucks that aren't cleared out and stuff like that. You have no chance on those."
Stamkos has been scoring goals, but not hat tricks. It had been four years since his last one on Oct. 13, 2014 against Montreal. Stamkos keeps track of his stats, but that exact detail was beyond him.
"I knew it hadn't been for a while," he said. "I don't know the exact date and I don't want to hear it. I had one tonight, so we'll start and hopefully get another one quicker."