CHICAGO — A lower-body injury reduced Steven Stamkos to doorman as the Lightning beat Chicago on Thursday.
Stamkos did not leave the game, but he did not play in the second or third periods. He sat on the end of the bench, opening one door in the second period and the other in the third.
Coach Jon Cooper said he aggravated a previous injury early in the game. He couldn’t say how long this could keep Stamkos out.
He had missed morning skate on Tuesday with what Cooper called “a little bit of maintenance,” then was unavailable to speak after that game due to treatment. But the coach said that was a different issue from Thursday’s.
“He had an option to leave the game, but didn’t want to do that,” Cooper said. "He wanted to hang out on the bench and cheer them on. I felt that was a big move for him.
Even without Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov who was injured on Tuesday, the Lightning took care of the Blackhawks with a 4-2 win. They had a clear advantage through the first two periods, but Chicago came on stronger in the third.
“You can’t replace those guys, you just can’t,” Brayden Point said. “They’re world-class players. It takes a lot of effort.”
For almost 50 minutes, Mikhail Sergachev’s first goal of the season was the only one of the game. He scored on a power-play one-timer from the center point at 16:10 of the first period.
Brent Seabrook tied the game up at 8:27 of the third period with a shot from just behind the goal line. The puck deflected of Curtis McElhinney’s back and into the net.
The Lightning took the lead back 1:17 later. Anthony Cirelli tipped Victor Hedman’s shot from the same spot as Sergachev’s goal. Brayden Point added another three minutes after that. Ondřej Palát sent a nice pass to the goal front and Point deflected it in.
Dylan Strome added one more after the Blackhawks pulled Corey Crawford. Three Blackhawks surrounded the crease, jostling for a rebound and he got to it first.
Cedric Paquette landed an empty netter in the final minute to secure the win.
The Lightning mixed up their lineup for the game. Jon Cooper used 11 forwards and seven defensemen, instead of the typical 12 and six.
The team had enough forwards. Tampa Bay had recalled Cory Conacher as a precaution when Steven Stamkos dealt with an injury on Tuesday, giving it 12 healthy forwards even without Nikita Kucherov. But Cooper chose to scratch Carter Verhaeghe and go with an extra defenseman. They then ended up having to play with 10 forwards when Stamkos became unavailable.
He also mixed up his defensemen group, even with the added player. Both Brayden Coburn, who sat out six games, and Jan Rutta, four of the last five, entered the lineup. Luke Schenn sat for the first time since being recalled on Oct. 30.