TAMPA — Don’t even call it a slump. Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal in the second period Saturday night, snapping a six-game goal drought, inching him closer to his 500th career goal and helping the Lightning rally to a 5-3 win over the Coyotes at Amalie Arena.
“I guess it’s a good thing when you guys are calling (six) games a slump,” said Stamkos, laughing. “That’s something that you just learn to deal with as your career progresses. It’s about wins in this league and doing whatever it takes to help your team win.
“Obviously nice to get on the score sheet and help the team win.”
Stamkos has done a lot of both for the Lightning over the years.
On Saturday night, he celebrated the end of 2022 with his goal 11:12 into the second period to break a 2-2- tie. It was the 498th goal of his career and his 189th on the power play. His assist in the third on Brandon Hagel’s power-play goal contributed to the Lightning’s third straight win to conclude a homestand.
Tampa Bay (23-11-1) finished 2022 with some momentum as its starts the new year with 13 of its first 20 games on the road.
“That was huge for us to get three wins out of three games after the holiday,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who had three assists in the win. “It was very big for us, especially in (games) against two very good teams (including Thursday’s win against the Rangers). To finish it off (Saturday) was big for us. Now we go back on the road for three. That’s going to be big for us.”
Stamkos got his first goal since Dec. 13 against the Kraken. The goal also gave Stamkos 13 seasons with at least 40 points, surpassing Marty St. Louis’ franchise record of 12 seasons.
While Stamkos may not be counting down to his 500th goal, those around him are aware of how close he is to becoming the 47th player in NHL history to reach the mark.
“It’s kind of a big, big deal in this league,” Hedman said. “So, we want (the puck) in his hands, obviously, in the scoring areas, but what I think is most impressive for us even with him is that he’s not looking for it. He is going to get it eventually and all that. … It’s just a matter of time, but he’s still making the right plays out there. And that’s what matters most.”
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Stamkos’ goal came 28 seconds after defenseman Mikhail Sergachev had tied the score at 2, rallying the Lighting from two-goal deficit. Forward Brayden Point had scored his fifth goal in his last four games and ninth in his last 10 10:53 into the first period to start the Lightning rally. Point has scored in eight straight home games, a franchise record.
Forward Alex Killorn scored on a breakaway with less than two minutes left the second to make it 4-3, and Hagel’s redirection of Hedman’s shot on a power play in the third gave the Lightning enough to top the Coyotes, who dropped their ninth straight road game.
With his three assists, Hedman tied Vinny Lecavalier (491) for the third most in Lightning history. It was the 25th game of Hedman’s career in which he collected three-plus assists, the most among active defensemen.
It all helped turn around the Lightning’s slow start.
With two goals in 34 seconds in the first period, the Coyotes jumped on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was making his third start in four nights. The first goal was a weird one as the puck bounced off Vasilevskiy, Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian and then Vasilevskiy again before Arizona center Travis Boyd pushed it to the back of the net.
Coyotes forward Christian Fischer beat Vasilevskiy on a rebound to give Arizona the 2-0 lead. Arizona forward Nick Bjugstad stole Sergachev’s attempt to clear the puck out of the Lightning’s zone and beat Vasilevskiy 12:44 into the second to tie the score at 3.
“I do like the way we kind of regrouped after that,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Even after that second goal, we really didn’t give them anything much after that … and then we got better as the night went on.”
Contact Kristie Ackert at email@example.com. Follow @ByKristieAckert.
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