VANCOUVER — The Lightning faced one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy on Saturday night, Canucks F Brock Boeser, the MVP of last weekend's All-Star Game in Tampa.
Dynamic Islanders F Mathew Barzal might be the one to beat for the rookie of the year award. Bruins D Charlie McAvoy should be right there too.
But Lightning F Yanni Gourde has quietly put himself in the conversation to be in the top five. His goal Saturday gave him four in his last six, and 18 for the season, just one shy of Steven Stamkos (19) and two behind Brayden Point (20) for second on the team. Who would have thought?
Gourde's 35 points entered Saturday ranked fourth among rookies, behind Barzal (51), Boeser (44) and Coyotes F Clayton Keller (36). Gourde was second in winning goals (four) to teammate D Mikhail Sergachev (five). Gourde's plus-21 dwarfed anyone in the field, the feisty 5-foot-10 center typically on the Lightning's shutdown line.
And Gourde might be the only candidate who makes the playoffs.
"I know what he's meant to our team," coach Jon Cooper said. "There are a lot of great rookies in this league, the one here (Boeser) and obviously the one out on the Island (Barzal). But I look at our guy, you look at our win (Thursday) in Calgary, how instrumental he was in so many parts of the game for us.
"Individual awards are garnered a ton because of the team's success, and our team has had a lot of success, and Yanni Gourde has been a big part of it."
Gourde is the eighth Lightning rookie to tally 35 points in a season, joining impressive company that includes Brad Richards (62, 2000-01), Ondrej Palat (59, 2013-14), Tyler Johnson (50, 2013-14), Steven Stamkos (46, 2008-09) and Brayden Point (40, 2016-17).
Girardi still out
D Dan Girardi watched Saturday's morning skated from the stands and missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Coach Jon Cooper said he wasn't sure if Girardi would play on the rest of this trip, which concludes Monday in Edmonton. "Hopefully we get home and he should be okay," Cooper said. The Lightning went with the same lineup as it did for Thursday's win over the Flames, with G Andrei Vasilevskiy in net and forwards Cedric Paquette and Michael Bournival scratched.
C Steven Stamkos' fist bump of a young Lightning fan during Thursday's win over the Flames made the rounds on social media, and it has a pretty cool story behind it. Before heading out for the third period, Stamkos asked the girl to "put a goal on my stick." After Stamkos scored that period, he went back to the bench and recognized her.
"She was having a blast, and it was nice to see her reaction," he said, "so I had to make sure to thank her."
RW Alex Killorn's five-point performance Thursday was one of just nine five-point games in franchise history. The last was by Vinny Lecavalier (1-4-5) on Feb. 23, 2011, against the Coyotes.
Two days after the Lightning had two representatives — including assistant GM Pat Verbeek — at a Columbus game, the Blue Jackets had a scout in Vancouver. The Lightning had reps Saturday at the Ottawa/Philadelphia and Montreal/Anaheim games.
Take your pick
Fans can vote for their favorite Lightning players from the past 25 seasons at
tampabaylightning.com/top25 through March 18. The picks will be invited for April 6 Fan Appreciation Night.