PHILADELPHIA -- Martin St. Louis said that when he joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent in the summer of 2000, he was just hoping to get into a few games.
Fourteen years and more than 1,000 games later, St. Louis continued to put his imprint on the NHL record book. On Friday he became the 81st player in NHL history to score 1,000 points when he scored the second goal in the New York Rangers' 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"It's always great when you achieve something, but I don't think it crosses your mind when you try and play in this League," St. Louis said. "I think there are goals that become achievable as you go through. I got a chance to play a thousand games and that's pretty special to me. To get a thousand [points], it's a great accomplishment. I'm not going to hide my feelings, I'm proud of that. To do it on a win, do it on a goal, I think it makes it special."
St. Louis entered the game with 998 points. He got within one of the magic number when he had the second assist on Dan Boyle's first-period power-play goal.
At 4:14 of the second, the rebound of Derek Stepan's sharp-angled shot from the right side bounced off Flyers goalie Steve Mason and into the slot. St. Louis burst through a gap between the defensemen and scored on the rebound.
"It's just one of those plays," St. Louis said. "[Stepan] did a good job on the forecheck keeping it alive. We turned right back and got a shot on net and the rebound ... I felt the angle with [Stepan's shot], that was the only place I could go to maybe get a stick on something and it came right to me."
In 16 NHL seasons the 39-year-old has 379 goals and 621 assists in 1,082 games with the Calgary Flames, Lightning and Rangers. He also has a Hart Trophy (2004), Ted Lindsay Award (2004), two Art Ross trophies (2004, 2013) and three Lady Byng trophies (2010, 2011, 2013). He helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and Canada win the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"You come into this League, try to make a name for yourself, try to show people you can play the game," St. Louis said. "As you establish yourself you're trying to win championships. Along the way, when you're playing on good teams, you're going to collect ... you're going to get rewarded individually. If you have the right frame of mind it pays off in the long run. I've always felt that I've had the right frame of mind and I've been able to play with some great players in my career."
St. Louis is the second player this season to reach 1,000 points; Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa did it on Oct. 30.
But unlike Hossa, who was a first-round pick by the Ottawa Senators in the 1997 NHL Draft, St. Louis was not drafted after four years at the University of Vermont. He was playing with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League when the Flames signed him in February 1998, and he bounced between the NHL and the American Hockey League for two seasons before landing in Tampa.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, St. Louis is the sixth undrafted player in League history who made his debut after the 1969-70 season to reach 1,000 points, joining Wayne Gretzky (2,857 points), Adam Oates (1,420), Peter Stastny (1,239), Dino Ciccarelli (1,200) and Joe Mullen (1,063). Those five players all are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and one current teammate feels St. Louis is sure to join them.
"Not too many players get to play 1,00o games," said Boyle, a teammate with the Lighting for six seasons, including the Stanley Cup season. "You add the fact that he's got 1,000 points, this guy is soon to be hall of famer. Pretty amazing to share that with him tonight."
A milestone like 1,000 points is a far cry from the player who arrived in Tampa Bay with little but a nice college resume.
"When I first got to Tampa I was a fourth-line guy, scratched and out of the lineup," he said. "I was trying to get another game, really. Slowly I had people I think see things that made me gain confidence. They played me more. John Tortorella took over in Tampa, he gave me a lot of confidence and believed in me. I'm fortune to have grown into the player that I am today. I owe a lot to the people that believed in me and the players I played with."