Seemingly, it was another look-at-me moment for Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
, at least as far as a pair of scoring races go.
With each point recorded, whether it came in the form of a goal or an assist, the graphic displayed up on the scoreboard at the Tampa Bay Times Forum illustrated the heated pursuit between himself and Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin for both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies.
Indeed, Stamkos tossed his near hat trick – scoring goals 49 and 50 – into the ring on Tuesday night during a 6-1 rout of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
“It’s special,” Stamkos said. “That's the magical number in hockey. I was fortunate to do it once, and to do it twice is just as special.”
In the process, Stamkos became just the sixth player in NHL history to record two 50-goal seasons before the age of 23. It was an achievement the Bolts forward called “surreal” and one that only Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin and Joe Nieuwendyk had accomplished previously. But this was a team moment, and Stamkos knew it.
He deflected credit to his teammates following the game with perhaps the same degree of ease as Dustin Tokarski did pucks that helped the 22-year-old goaltender pick up his first career NHL victory in net.
“I was glad to see Marty [St. Louis] get an assist on that goal,” Stamkos said. “He’s helped me become the player I am since Day 1, so to share that moment with him and to see Teddy [Purcell] get in on that first one was huge for me.”
“Wild,” is how head coach Guy Boucher described the reaction from the bench after Stamkos netted his 50th of the season, and it came with good reason, too.
After notching 51 goals in 2009-10 that tied Sidney Crosby for the league lead and earned him a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy, Stamkos is the first Lightning player in team history to score at least 50 goals in a single season twice. He’s also the first player throughout the history of the franchise to score 30 goals at home, and with three weeks still left to play in the regular campaign, is likely to surpass Vincent Lecavalier
’s team record of 52 goals in a single season, which the Bolts captain established during the 2006-07 season.
“I think it’s going to take a little while to sink in,” Stamkos added. “But right now it’s a great feeling and it’s something no one can ever take away from me.”
No other player has stepped up bigger for the Lightning this season than Stamkos, especially in dire situations.
With injuries to both St. Louis and Lecavalier, who remains out indefinitely with a non-displaced hand fracture, Stamkos still managed to reach the 50-goal plateau, which currently puts him 12 ahead of Malkin who ranked second in the league with 38 goals entering Wednesday’s games. In the past three seasons though, Stamkos’ 146 goals since the start of the 2009-10 campaign are the most of any NHL player in that span.
“There’s always more,” Boucher said. “You can always raise your standard and I think he’s raised it every year. He’s after a championship, and that’s a sign of his maturity and his willingness to get better.”
His maturity was then further revealed in a telling moment following Tuesday night’s game during a media scrum with reporters in which Boucher disclosed an unusual request from the Lightning forward.
“At the end, he didn’t want to go back on the ice to try and get that third [goal],” Boucher added. “He stayed on the bench because he wanted to let the other guys go on to get more ice time. He’s all about the team concept.”
With that said, sounds as if Stamkos might even be in the running for the Hart Trophy too.