PHILADELPHIA — Steven Stamkos admits to being the superstitious type. As he approached getting his 1,000th career point on the road, the Lightning captain told his family to stay home, promising there’d be time to celebrate later if he reached the milestone Thursday night against the Flyers.
Stamkos entered the game at Wells Fargo Center needing one point as Tampa Bay wrapped up a three-game trip. He just missed on a few early scoring chances, prompting him to look to the ceiling, pleading to the hockey gods.
Stamkos’ moment came just under eight minutes into the second period of the Lightning’s commanding 4-1 win.
Taking the puck off the corner wall, he opted for a safe play over a fancy one, joking later that he didn’t want to get yelled at in the next team meeting for flinging the puck to the back post and risking a turnover. So, he passed it behind the net to defenseman Ian Cole, who fed forward Nick Paul in front for his second goal of the game.
Stamkos got a secondary assist for point No. 1,000.
“It’s one of those things where you’re just thankful to get this opportunity to be in the league for that long to do it with one organization as well,” said Stamkos, who became the 95th player in NHL history, and one of only 10 active players, to reach 1,000 points.
“That’s special for me. That’s something that I was really looking forward to this year, understanding that there were some possible milestones. So, to be able to achieve them with this group of guys is pretty cool.”
Ten days ago, when Boston’s Patrice Bergeron reached 1,000 points at Amalie Arena, his Bruins teammates stormed the ice to celebrate. Stamkos thought the Lightning might do the same when he reached the mark. They did, circling Stamkos and flooding the ice with blue jerseys. Stamkos called the moment surreal.
“I didn’t know if the guys for sure were going to do it, but I had a good inkling that they were going to come out there,” he said. “But still, you can never prepare yourself for that. That’s pretty amazing. I mean, how often do you get a chance to do that in your career? And it was on a second assist, too, so it was the most-celebrated second assist in my career, for sure.”
Paul quickly retrieved the puck from the net as the Lightning bench emptied. The crowd initially booed, not knowing the significance of the moment, but it applauded Stamkos after being informed of the achievement on the video board.
“Those are always tough moments because you know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when, you don’t know how, you don’t know if it’s going to be a clean play or not,” coach Jon Cooper said. “But it was pretty evident what had happened and pretty cool to see the guys right away jump over the bench.”
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Stamkos is six goals away from reaching another milestone, 500. When he does that, he will be one of just three active players in the 500-1,000 club, joining Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
“That kid’s got some more milestones to come this year,” Cooper said, “and he’s deserved it.”
Stamkos’ achievement came on a night in which the Lightning played one of their most complete games of the season. They dominated the Flyers in offensive zone time, especially during a second period in which they held a 17-2 shot advantage. After going up 2-0 on Paul’s second goal, Tampa Bay effectively put the game away when forward Ross Colton scored with four seconds left in the period to give it a three-goal lead.
“We were on it,” Cooper said. “I was glad we scored that third one late, because it would have been — not that I was thinking we needed another one, but to get that third one was a little bit of bursting the bubble. But it helped us to be rewarded for that kind of period to get one late.”
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made nine of his 21 saves in the first period — several on Grade-A scoring chances — to keep the Flyers off the board early. He stopped the first 16 shots he faced before Philadelphia forward Travis Konecny scored with 8:37 left in the game.
After taking four of a possible six points on the trip, the Lightning (14-8-1) return home for a Saturday game against the Maple Leafs — the first of six straight at home — having won seven of their last nine.
Afterward, as he clutched his 1,000th-point puck in his right hand, Stamkos talked about returning to Tampa to see his family and celebrate. His parents will be in town, too. He said the puck will have a safe place alongside some of his most cherished career mementos, away from his hockey-loving 3-year-old son.
“Yeah, Carter will not be playing ministicks with this puck any time soon,” Stamkos said.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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