TAMPA — It wasn’t quite one of his trademark goals, but Steven Stamkos’s 400th career goal was close enough.
It didn’t come on a power play, but it did come with an extra skater. It wasn’t at the dot, but it did come from the top of the circle. It was a one-timer. And it was timely.
The goal with 2:16 left to play against the Jets on Saturday cut the Lightning’s deficit to 3-2 and gave them a chance to win.
“It’s still pretty surreal,” Stamkos said after the 4-3 loss at Amalie Arena. “You never envision scoring that many goals in the NHL, and hopefully more to come.”
The goal, with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy pulled and an extra attacker, was assisted by Victor Hedman, who has assisted on 63 of Stamkos’ goals. It was fitting for two players — the Nos. 1 and 2 overall picks in the 2008 and 2009 drafts, respectively — around whom this team was reconstructed.
“It’s an unreal accomplishment by an unreal player,” Hedman said. “I’m super proud of him and super happy for him.”
Stamkos is the ninth active player to reach 400 goals. He needed the second-fewest games of the group to hit the mark, 763 (Alex Ovechkin did it faster). Last season Stamkos broke the franchise goal record with No. 384.
This one came against one of the opponents against which Stamkos has had the most success. His .78 goals-per-game average against the Jets is bettered only by his scoring rate against the Stars. Stamkos’ 60th goal in the 2011-12 season came in Winnipeg.
Since joining the Lightning in the offseason in free agency and taking the ice with him daily, Pat Maroon has a greater appreciation for what Stamkos can do. He realizes how often Stamkos creates his own shooting line, finding space around players and sticks. “I’m happy I’m on the other end of it because it stinks when he’s teeing up and scoring goals when you’re on the other side of it,” he said.
And no, he has never blocked one of Stamkos’ one-timers. He’s “not getting in that.”
Stamkos’ one-timer is part of his reputation. He and Ovechkin have the best ones in the league. Hedman, who has assisted on numerous Stamkos one-timers, said you just have to get the puck in Stamkos’ giant wheelhouse because not many goalies can stop it.
As much as Stamkos and everyone else would have preferred his milestone came in a win, it provided a silver lining to a frustrating loss.
“Everybody was really down after the loss,” coach Jon Cooper said. “There was genuine happiness for (Stamkos) in the (locker) room. It kind of sucked the bite out of the loss.”
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos