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Steven Stamkos’ Stanley Cup goal among Sports Illustrated’s Plays of the Year

The Lightning and Rays are also up for Game of the Year consideration.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos celebrates one of the most memorable goals of the Stanley Cup final, in Game 3 against the Stars.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos celebrates one of the most memorable goals of the Stanley Cup final, in Game 3 against the Stars. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 18, 2020

Hockey fans aren’t alone in recognizing just how special it was to see Steven Stamkos come out on the ice in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

In the injured Lightning captain’s 2020 postseason debut, he scored on his first shot in the 5-2 win against Dallas. That moment is one of four nominated for Sports Illustrated’s Play of the Year.

Stamkos’ goal joins Spanish professional golfer Jon Rahm’s 66-foot putt at the BMW Championship, Miami’s Bam Adebayo’s block in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Boston’s Jayson Tatum, and Chicago pitcher Alec Mills’ no-hitter in a September win against Milwaukee — the Cubs’ first since 2016 — for top plays.

Stamkos’ feat is recognized in part because of his ability to score on his first shot in 210 games, only playing 2:47 that night before spending the rest of the game watching from the bench. Going into the game, it was unknown if he would compete in the postseason after a tough rehabilitation from core muscle surgery in March.

The same stick Stamkos used to score that “magical goal” is one of many pieces of Lightning memorabilia that will end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Lightning also are in the running for Sports Illustrated’s Game of the Year.

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final caught national attention after Tampa Bay trailed Dallas 2-0. Brayden Point scored a pair of goals to tie it up in the second period before the Lightning took a 4-3 lead in the third.

But the game went into overtime after Joe Pavelski scored the tying goal. The Lightning took a 3-1 series lead after Kevin Shattenkirk netted the winning goal on a power-play opportunity in overtime.

Joining the Lightning for Game of the Year is the Rays’ Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. In comeback fashion, the Rays defeated the Dodgers 8-7.

Down 7-6, Seminole native Brett Philips hit a line drive to right-centerfield. But the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor mishandled the ball and lost time as Kevin Kiermaier crossed home plate.

Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy caught the relay throw from Taylor but he and catcher Will Smith failed to connect on the throw to home plate, which would have tagged out Randy Arozarena.

The Rays postseason star was caught between third base and home plate — after he tripped rounding third — but when Smith missed the catch, Arozarena saw his chance and dove toward the plate, sealing the Rays’ win.

Other games nominated are Super Bowl 54 between San Francisco and Kansas City and Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Lakers.

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Fans interested can watch the Sports Illustrated Awards show — out of Las Vegas — on Saturday at 7 p.m. The show will be streamed on the publication’s Facebook page.

Other categories that will be recognized include: Best Dressed, Breakout of the Year, Player of the Year, Game of the Year, the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and the 2020 Sportsperson of the Year recipients.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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