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Stamkos gets No. 50 as Lightning zap Bruins

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos saw the sign in the stands -- the one that read, "I Came All The Way From Ontario To See Stamkos Get 50 Goals." It was right in front of him every time he came back to the bench.

Stamkos didn't disappoint the sign-holder or the rest of the full house of 19.204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, scoring his 49th and 50th goals of the season as the Lightning routed the Boston Bruins 6-1 on Tuesday night.

"Maybe we should find that guy and bring him back for the next game," Stamkos said.

Stamkos got No. 49 on Tampa Bay's first shot in the second period and became the NHL's first 50-goal scorer this season at 11:43 of the third period.

"It was definitely in the back of my mind. It was nice last time I did it to get to 49 and 50 in one game," said Stamkos, the first player chosen in the 2008 NHL Draft. "That was definitely running through my mind."

Martin St. Louis, who's been responsible for many of Stamkos' goals during the past three seasons, assisted on No. 50.

"It was definitely special having Marty get the assist on that one," Stamkos said. "He's helped me become the player I am since day one, so to share that moment with him means a lot."

The Lightning broke a three-game winless streak with the victory but didn't pick up any ground in their quest for the postseason as the Washington Capitals also won to remain seven points ahead of Tampa Bay in the race for the final playoff position in the East. Their seven-game homestand continues Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Stamkos is just the sixth player in NHL history to score 50 goals twice before his 23rd birthday. The others are Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Ovechkin.

"Getting 50 goals is something special," Stamkos said. "It's a magic number in hockey, and it's so special to do it in front of your home fans with a big win. That makes the memory last even longer and better. It's a great feeling and something that no one can ever take away from me."

Lightning coach Guy Boucher suggested Stamkos has some achievements yet to come.

"He can win a Stanley Cup; He can win a gold medal in the Olympics; he can do a lot of things," Boucher said. "Now we're looking at statistics but it's about championships, and he's after that. The goals he scores are for the team.

"He's a package deal. He's in tremendous shape, he takes care of himself. He's a terrific individual off-ice; he's very unselfish off-ice and on-ice. It's always within a team concept. I've never seen him have any kind of remote reaction that would signal some selfishness. He's a guy that drives for more. He doesn't just let things come to him. He pushes his own standards."

Stamkos' milestone night overshadowed a 33-save performance by rookie Dustin Tokarski, who earned his first NHL win, and a four-goal first period by the Lightning that basically put the game away -- even though the Bruins outshot Tampa Bay 32-7 in the final 40 minutes.

 "It feels awesome," Tokarski said of the victory. "It's really exciting. I'm at a loss for words right now, but it's huge. A dream come true."

Tampa Bay's Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson and Ryan Shannon all scored in the first 4:31 to chase veteran goalie Marty Turco, who was making his first start in the NHL since returning from Europe and signing with Boston on March 5. Tim Thomas allowed two goals on five shots before Turco played the third period, allowing No. 50 to Stamkos.
Turco finished with eight saves on 12 shots.

"We can't blame it on our goalies. They've had our backs so many times this season, and it's one of those games when we had to have their backs and we didn't do that," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "It was a tough game for all of us."

Victor Hedman added the fourth goal of the period at 15:38 when he blasted the puck past Thomas for his fourth goal of the season. The period ended with the Lightning outshooting the Bruins 10-2 -- the fewest shots allowed by the Lightning in a period this season.

Tokarski also was credited with an assist on Shannon's breakaway goal that made the score 3-0.

"That's pretty cool," Tokarski said.  "That's really neat. I didn't even know I had a point until after the game. I got a point before my first win? That's pretty crazy, eh?"

Boston got on the scoreboard at 1:55 of the final period with a goal by Jordan Caron, but the only effect of that score was to ruin Tokarski's chance at a shutout.

The Bruins, on a road trip that will end Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, dropped their third straight game, matching their longest losing streak of the season.

"We can talk about being a little bit snakebitten, but to me, that's a coward excuse," coach Claude Julien said. "I believe that you make your own breaks. I don't want to start making excuses. We need to find ways to win hockey games. Finding excuses is a coward thing and it makes your team weak."
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