After receiving a perfect pass right in stride, Stamkos looked up as he entered the offensive zone, saw an open right side of the net and fired a wrist shot that rattled the twine behind Marty Turco at the 11:43 mark of the third period. As the red light lit up a split-second after reaching the back of the net, it signaled the second 50-goal season in the four-year career of the 22-year-old scoring sensation. With his two-goal performance in a 6-1 romp of the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, Stamkos became just the sixth player in NHL history to record multiple 50-goal campaigns before the age of 23. The impressive list includes Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Ovechkin.
"It's special – that's the magical number in hockey,'' Stamkos said of reaching 50 goals for the second time. "I was very fortunate to do it once and to do it twice is just as special, I think. And to do it at home, again in a win. I've been pretty lucky to be able to do it under some special circumstances. Last time my dad was here and this time my mom was here. "It kind of all worked out in the end and to beat a good team and hopefully get our team on a roll.'' The Lightning are looking for wins any way they can take them. With 13 games left in the regular season, Tampa Bay trails eighth-place Washington – which overcame two separate three-goal deficits to beat the New York Islanders on Tuesday – for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
With three goals in a the opening 4:31 of Tuesday's game – from Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson and Ryan Shannon – the Lightning came out in a fury, chasing Bruins goalie Marty Turco, who faced just six shots on goal in his first NHL start in a year. Victor Hedman made it 4-0 by the end of the first period before Stamkos scored his first of the night – and 49th of the season – just 3:06 into the second period to make it 5-0 and chase Thomas, who returned the net back to Turco for the remainder of the night. With a large lead in hand, the Lightning sort of went into prevent mode, getting outshot 32-7 in the final two periods. But it allowed rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski to see plenty of action, finishing up with 33 saves to pick up his first career NHL victory while also notching his first career point with a secondary assist on Shannon's goal.
The 22-year-old became just the second goaltender in NHL history to record both his first career victory and first career point in the same game (according to Stats, Inc.), joining Jason LaBarbera who did it with the New York Rangers on March 5, 2004, against Washington. "It's just amazing. A lot of hard work paid off and it was real exciting and huge for this team to get the win,'' Tokarski said. "The defense kept a lot of the shots to the outside, then allowed me to challenge when I had to and I was able to play big.''
But none has played bigger for the Lightning this season than Stamkos. With 50 goals on the season he has 12 more than any other player in the league and is tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the scoring lead. In the past three seasons he has scored 51 goals, 45 and so far 50 this season for 146 since the start of the 2009-10 season, 45 more than any other NHL player during that span.
And he admitted the thought of reaching the 50-goal mark again was something that has been on his mind. "I haven't been napping very well on game days lately with just the anticipation of it happening the next game,'' Stamkos said. "So this is going to take a little bit of the pressure off and as much as I try not to think about it, it's tough when you are asked about it. "So it was great to get it in a win, to do it at home and share it with a great bunch of guys in here.''