Among the several thousands of fans watching the Elimination Shootout at Saturday’s 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition, there was only one in particular who Steven Stamkos hoped was tuned in.
“Somewhere,” Stamkos said, “I hope coach Boucher was watching.”
And with good reason, too.
The Lightning forward scored on all three shootout attempts in the contest, beating Montreal Canadiens net minder Carey Price on two occasions, and finishing off his final try against Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas to win the event against 23 other participants.
After smashing only three of the four targets in the Accuracy Shooting event earlier in the evening and taking a little longer than expected to convert several one-timers from a sharp angle during the Skills Challenge Relay, Stamkos said winning the final contest of the Skills Competition at Scotiabank Place made his night all the more rewarding.
“It was a lot of fun,” Stamkos said. “I figured I could redeem myself for the target shooting. It was nice to get those three goals and I think those were the first of the season for me on the shootout.”
Prior to Saturday night, it had been a while since the NHL’s leading goal scorer last lit the lamp past the overtime period.
In fact, Stamkos hasn’t converted any of his three chances in the tiebreaker thus far this season, and also failed to score on each his seven opportunities during the 2010-11 campaign. His last shootout goal came near the conclusion of the 2009-10 season.
But Saturday night proved to be a different story.
His first goal came as a result of a subtle stick fake in which he deked Price before beating him with a wrist shot to the upper right corner, while the second was a familiar scene to Lightning fans, as Stamkos pulled a similar spin-o-rama move that had worked on Price once before back on Dec. 30, 2010, when the Habs visited the Tampa Bay Times Forum last season.
Only Stamkos, Jason Pominville and John Tavares made it to the third round, where the Bolts center beat Thomas for what would be the eventual winner, while Thomas stopped Tavares and Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings ended the show by turning back Pominville.
“I didn't know what I was going to come up with,” Stamkos said. “I just went out there to have fun and things just kind of came to me as I was coming down. It was a packed house and I wanted to put on a show for the fans, so it was definitely nice to see those three goals go in.”
And of course, to walk away as a winner in the contest too.