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Steven Stamkos ties Vinny Lecavalier’s franchise goals record

The Lightning captain tallies goal No. 383 in a win over the Red Wings.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos, right, and Detroit Red Wings center Frans Nielsen battle for position in the first period Thursday in Detroit. [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]
Lightning center Steven Stamkos, right, and Detroit Red Wings center Frans Nielsen battle for position in the first period Thursday in Detroit. [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]
Published Mar. 15, 2019
Updated Mar. 15, 2019

DETROIT — Steven Stamkos on Thursday did what Steven Stamkos does.

He scored, tying the Lightning’s career goals record, and he sparked his flat team to a 5-4 comeback win over the Red Wings.

Stamkos scored goal No. 383 to tie former teammate Vinny Lecavalier atop the franchise goal list. What Lecavalier did in 14 seasons and 1,037 games, Stamkos did in 11 years and 735 games.

“You don’t dream of being an all-time goal leader of a franchise when you’re a kid,” Stamkos said. “You dream of playing a game in the NHL. It’s a pretty cool feeling. I’m sure it will process more a little later.”

Stamkos did something few players get a chance to do. The Lightning is a young organization. He didn’t tie someone who is just a name and a reputation. He tied a former teammate. Stamkos tied someone whom he assisted on goals and who assisted his goals as well.

“It’s a huge honor to be sharing that with Vinny right now,” Stamkos said. “He was so instrumental to me in my career and what he meant to this organization and the whole community of Tampa. It’s pretty surreal to be in company with him right now.”

Except for the past month, as goals slowed to a trickle, this season has brought the re-emergence of Stamkos.

He has scored like he hasn’t since before the injuries. He’s been the Stamkos of his youth, the one who injected new life into the organization all those years ago.

This year, as Nikita Kucherov has deservedly attracted attention for his league-leading point season, Stamkos has returned to his pure-scorer roots. It took him 27 games to reach 20 goals. He has been nearly automatic, particularly with his one-timer, and particularly from the left faceoff circle

He is a natural scorer, the kind that comes around only rarely. He’s been the face of the franchise for 11 years. And now, he has tied as its leading goal scorer.

“That’s a pretty cool accomplishment,” Tyler Johnson said. “Vinny was a heck of a player, so for ‘Stammer’ to tie him, and eventually get past that, I think Stammer is a big head of the franchise, and he’s not done yet.

Stamkos had been so close to the record for a month.

He scored two goals against Dallas on Feb. 14, and the countdown began at three goals to tie, four to break the record. He got one more in the Feb. 18 win over Columbus but then didn’t come within one goal until the March 5 win over Winnipeg.

He almost tied the record against Detroit at home on Saturday, but the goal was called back due to an offside play.

Thursday, he got the puck from J.T. Miller at his favorite spot, near the left faceoff dot, held it for a second and tucked it between the near post and goaltender Jimmy Howard.

It was fitting that Stamkos tied the record on a goal that also sparked the Lightning’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit.

“Vinny is an icon in our franchise; there’s a reason his number is in the rafters,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s just been one of those years for us. (Kucherov) passes him for points (in a season), and then Stammer ties him in (career) goals.”

Stamkos, 29, joked that tying this record just means he’s been around for a long time, though it doesn’t always feel like he’s almost 11 full years into his career.

Some mornings he feels like an old man, but never once he gets to the rink. He’s confident he has many more goals in him.