NEW YORK -- It was a quick moment in the postgame handshake line Friday, but it was a moment that was a long time coming for Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos found his way side-by-side former teammate and close friend Martin St. Louis following the Lightning's 2-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
It was special and surreal for them to be standing there in opposite uniforms, the younger player and current Tampa Bay captain moving on to the Stanley Cup Final, the older, former Lightning captain going home, unsure of his future, of the rest of his career.
"It was kind of bittersweet, to be honest," Stamkos said.
Stamkos grew up under St. Louis' watch in Tampa Bay and became the captain the moment the Lightning traded St. Louis to the Rangers on March 5, 2014. Stamkos has remained close friends with St. Louis, but he said that friendship was put on hold these past two weeks.
"We didn't talk at all during the series," Stamkos said. "For as close as Marty and I are, we realized the magnitude of this series. We realized when it was over we could go back to talking to each other."
The feeling of shaking his hand was the complete opposite of how Stamkos actually felt at the time.
"It was obviously satisfying because we get a chance to go to the Final," Stamkos said. "That was way bigger than the storyline was between the former Rangers and the former Lightning players. But Marty is a competitor, he's a great friend of mine, and I'll always respect him. I told him that. He obviously wished me the best of luck.
"We'll probably be talking the next couple days."