After missing 45 games due to a broken leg sustained in November,
Stamkos said it was the best he felt, scoring a natural hat trick as
his Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 in a
crucial Atlantic Division match up.
"To come into this rink and have a hat trick in a win at this time
of the year ... hopefully there's some more highlights in the near
future," said Stamkos, who grew up in nearby, Markham, Ontario. "I
think at this point, it is the most exciting time of the year for me
"I was hoping for a couple hats to come on the ice. So I'll have to
talk to some buddies in the stands about that. It's great to come in
this rink and win. Obviously icing on the cake to get a hat trick."
Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas and center Tyler Johnson had the
other goals for Tampa Bay. Center Phil Kessel, forward Nikolai
Kulemin and defenseman Jake Gardiner had the goals for Toronto.
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop, who entered his start 2-4-0 with a
3.04 goals-against-average against the Leafs, made 36 saves in the
Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, who came into Wednesday's start
with an 0-4-0 record to go along with a 4.09 GAA in his last five
starts, made 25 saves in the loss.
"Coming into this game, it was obviously a big game," said Reimer.
"We were real close in the standings. It's a tough one. We wanted to
come out and play well and get a win, or at least get a couple
points and it just wasn't the case."
With the win, the Lightning (38-24-7) stretched their win streak to
four games, their longest since a season-best five game stretch Dec.
15-23. It was Tampa Bay's first win in Toronto since a 6-2 victory
March 14, 2011. The Lightning were 0-3-1 in their previous four
visits to the Air Canada Centre and 0-2-0 against the Leafs this
"I can't understate it enough," said Lightning coach, Jon Cooper, of
the win. "We needed two points out of this. As important as getting
the two points, is to not give one up."
Toronto (36-27-8), which played and lost in Detroit on Tuesday
night, is now 6-8-0 in the second half of a back to back this
Stamkos tied it at 2, on a power play, at 13:22 of the first,
one-timing forward Valtteri Filppula's feed past Riemer from his
signature spot on the ice between the bottom of the faceoff circle
and the goal line.
Stamkos gave Tampa Bay its second lead of the night at 15:39 of the
opening period one timing forward Tyler Johnson's feed past Reimer.
The Lightning captain completed the hat trick at 5:56 of the second
period, putting home the rebound off defenseman Eric Brewer's shot
for his 19th of the season. Wednesday was Stamkos' second hat trick
of the season, and seventh of his career.
"We were kind of joking about it before the game that I haven't had
a multi-goal game here in Toronto so I was due," said Stamkos. "Any
time you can contribute in a win, at this time of the year, I was
pretty excited to do it in front of friends and family."
Stamkos now has 13 goals and 12 assists in 20 career games against
the Maple Leafs and five goals in seven games since returning from
"There's special players out there that find a way, they have that
innate ability to rise to the occasion," said Cooper. "For Stammer
to come back in here to his hometown and do what he did tonight,
basically put the team on his shoulders."
Tampa Bay improved to 14-2-0 this season when Stamkos registers at
least a point.
"The area in which Stamkos scored his goals, obviously you don't
want to give anybody — and specifically anybody of that skill-set — that kind of space in that area," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle.
Gardiner pulled Toronto to 4-3, circling the net and then beating
Bishop glove-side for his 10th of the season at 8:20 of the third.
[to top of second column]
But Johnson restored the Lightning two-goal lead, one-timing winger
Ryan Malone's feed past Reimer for his 22nd of the season, on a
power play, at 12:56. The assist was Malone's 200th point as a
member of the Lightning.
With four seconds remaining in the first period, Lighting forward
Alex Killorn hit Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger, who turned at the
last second prior to the hit, from behind with an elbow. Ranger
remained down for several minutes and was carted off on a stretcher.
"You never want to see that ever in the game," said Leafs forward,
Mason Raymond. "When that stretcher comes out that's, I think, a
whole 'nother level when you realize the severity of it. Obviously
we're just hoping the best for him right now."
Killorn was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for
Ranger spent parts of five seasons with the Lightning organization.
"That's tough, you never want to see anything like that in this
game," said Stamkos, who was a teammate of Ranger's. "Those are the
plays they're trying to get rid of. It's such a bang-bang play.
Obviously Killer didn't mean to do it. It's a scary situation; you
just hope Ranger is OK. A couple of us played with him. "
During the second intermission, the Leafs announced Ranger was taken
to local hospital for precautionary assessment and that he was
stable, conscious and alert. The team did not update Ranger's
condition further post game.
"Unfortunate incident with Killorn-Ranger," said Cooper. "That's a
tough one. I don't think there was any intent on Killorn's part to
do that. It's not the way that he plays."
Gudas opened the scoring 59 seconds in to the first, on the
Lightning's first shot of the game, beating a screened Reimer
five-hole for his third of the season. The goal was Gudas' first
since Dec. 23.
Kessel tied it at 1, one-timing defenseman Carl Gunnarson feed past
a sprawling Bishop for his 35th of the season at 3:31 of the first,
snapping his longest drought of the season at four games.
Kulemin gave Toronto its first and only lead of the game at 10:32 of
the first period re-directing defenseman Tim Gleason's shot past
Bishop for his ninth of the season. Kulemin's goal snaps a 14 game
NOTES: Leafs G Jonathan Bernier (groin) took part in Toronto's
optional morning skate Wednesday. Bernier's 25-minute workout was
his first practice since he suffered the injury March 13 against the
Los Angeles Kings. ... Lightning D Keith Aulie, D Mark Barberio, RW
Nikita Kucherov and RW Richard Panik were all scratches. ... Leafs
RW Carter Ashton and RW Colton Orr were scratches. ... Leafs C Tyler
Bozak celebrated his 28th birthday Wednesday. ... Toronto C David
Bolland missed his 56th game due to an ankle injury. He remains on
injured reserve. ... The fourth and final meeting between the two
clubs takes place April 8 in Tampa Bay.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.