Steven Stamkos thriving in different role with Lightning

Jun 13, 2022, 3:01 AM | Updated: 3:03 pm
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the...

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the New York Rangers during the third period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos, at 32 and wrapping up his 14th season, is no longer one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers or even the second- or third-best player on his own team.

The six-time All-Star and two-time “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner as the league’s leading goal scorer is the undisputed leader of the Tampa Bay Lightning, though, and one of the reasons the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are four wins away from the first three-peat in 40 years.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Wednesday night, with the Lightning facing the Colorado Avalanche after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers to reach hockey’s biggest stage for the fourth time since 2015.

Stamkos has scored a team-leading nine goals in 17 games this postseason, including a pair in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 series-clinching victory over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.

“It’s not individuals. It’s great to score a couple goals in a huge game. … But if I didn’t score and we won I would have been just as happy,” the No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 NHL draft said.

“That’s the way the guys are on our team. Each guy plays a part. And (the media) can discuss if it’s a big part or if it’s a little part,” the Lightning captain added. “We know in the room that everyone plays a huge part in our group success. That’s why we have been so successful because the guys in that room are truly like that.”

Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn and Pat Maroon have all played key roles in Tampa Bay winning back-to-back titles and becoming the first team to make three straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Final since the Edmonton Oilers from 1983-85.

Stamkos has carried his share of the load, too, although he missed nearly all of the team’s championship run two years ago because of an injury. There have been plenty of times in the subsequent two seasons that his contributions have been overshadowed by the play of some of the team’s younger stars.

Through it all, Stamkos keeps playing — and producing. He’s the Lightning’s career goals leader with 481 and earlier this season moved ahead of Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis to become the franchise’s career points leader with 972 in 14 seasons.

The Lightning are trying to become the first team to three-peat since the New York Islanders won four straight titles from 1980-83.

“Watching Stammer’s growth — going from the 60-goal scorer and the young guy to the leader, the captain and the guy that people are rallying around — he’s got a lot of weight on the shoulders,” coach Jon Cooper said.

“He’s got to score, he’s got to lead, he’s got to be the face of the franchise,” Cooper added. “He’s got to do all these things.”

Missing all but one game of Tampa Bay’s 2020 championship run was one of the toughest stretches of Stamkos’ career. He appeared in just one game, logging 2:42 of ice time — yet still scored a goal — in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas.

The captain’s next appearance came after the team’s title-clinching win in Game 6, with Stamkos slipping into his uniform and returning to the ice for the trophy presentation and celebration.

Scoring twice to eliminate the Rangers — with the winner delivered a mere 21 seconds after New York tied the game with a power-play goal scored with Stamkos in the penalty box for holding — thrust him into the spotlight.

Cooper, who has the Lightning in the Cup Final for the fourth time, couldn’t be happier for him.

“Our first Cup run, he misses basically the whole thing. So, at some point you want the light to shine on him. And it has in so many different ways,” Cooper said.

“But in an elimination game, to not only score the first goal, but to answer back 21 seconds after they scored, you’re so proud,” Cooper added. “He’ll be the first one to push the accolades to everybody else, but he had a hell of a series.”

That’s indeed what Stamkos tried to do.

“There was a quiet confidence with this group like there usually is in tight moments like that,” the captain said.

“Each guy is just a part of the process. And that’s what makes this team so special and tight and unique,” Stamkos added. “We don’t care how it gets done. You just need to get it done.”

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]
1 month ago
Joe Jarzynka...
Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]
1 month ago
FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]
1 month ago
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...
Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]
1 month ago
FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...
Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]
1 month ago
FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]
1 month ago
Steven Stamkos thriving in different role with Lightning