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Lightning’s Steven Stamkos sets career high in points this postseason

The captain opens scoring in the team’s Game 6 loss to the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup final.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his first-period goal during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday at Amalie Arena.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his first-period goal during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 27|Updated Jun. 27

TAMPA — Standing in front of a pool of reporters minutes after the Lightning endured their most heart-wrenching loss in three seasons, defenseman Ryan McDonagh struggled to find the right words.

How best to sum up what captain Steven Stamkos meant to the team during its run to three straight Stanley Cup finals?

“His play was incredible, just a great, great feel for the room, a great motivational player, just a purebred hockey player through and through,” McDonagh said. “I don’t really know what to say, but I’m just really proud of him.”

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) shot finds the back of the net for a first period goal as Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) falls to the ice as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews (7) looks on in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday, June 26, 2022 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) shot finds the back of the net for a first period goal as Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) falls to the ice as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews (7) looks on in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday, June 26, 2022 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Stamkos scored the team’s lone goal Sunday night in the Lightning’s 2-1 loss to the Avalanche, which sealed Colorado’s first title since 2001.

He opened scoring with his 11th goal of the postseason, tying Ondrej Palat for most on the Lightning roster.

Less than four minutes into the game, Nikita Kucherov battled for the puck behind Colorado’s net and worked it off the wall against Nathan MacKinnon. The puck ricocheted off Palat’s skate at the bottom of the left faceoff circle. Stamkos grabbed it and quickly turned and fired a shot past goaltender Darcy Kuemper for a 1-0 lead.

Stamkos’ 19 points, including 11 goals, were a postseason high, besting his 18 in 2020-21. He had one game-winning goal during these playoffs (Game 6 against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final).

Stamkos’ 19 points also tied Victor Hedman for third-most on the team, behind Kucherov (27) and Palat (21). Over 23 postseason contests, Stamkos had five multi-point games (including three in the conference final).

Stamkos, 32, already was coming off a career regular season. After his first healthy offseason in years (one where he could spend time training instead of rehabbing injuries), he recorded 106 points (64 assists), topping his 98 points from 2018-19. This season was his first with 40 or more goals since he had 45 in 2018-19.

The captain’s offense anchored the Lightning for much of the season, especially when they battled without Brayden Point and Kucherov, who both missed extended time with injuries.

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Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a first period goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday, June 26, 2022 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a first period goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Sunday, June 26, 2022 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

On April 21, Stamkos passed Martin St. Louis (953) for most points in Lightning history. By the end of the season, he had pushed that total to 972.

It was fitting that Stamkos closed out the Lightning’s season by scoring Sunday at Amalie Arena. His production and leadership helped get the team back to the Cup final for a third straight year.

Coach Jon Cooper won’t soon forget it.

“You’re not going to get to these places, where we are, where we’re sitting today, where we’ve sat the last two years without leadership, without players that will be selfless,” Cooper said. “...It’s not like guys are walking out the door saying, ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait to get on a plane and go home.’ I’d be shocked if I saw guys leave tonight. That’s how close we were and Stammer’s a big part of that.”

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

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