Stamkos lifts Bolts with his presence

by Gary Shelton on September 24, 2020

in general

Stamkos gave the Bolts a lift with his goal./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

If the Lightning wins the Cup, and even if the Lightning were to lose it, this is the moment you will remember.

This was his Willis Reed moment.

And if you have a certain number of years on you, you need no further reminder.

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It was 50 years ago when Reed limped from the dressing room to play Game Seven against the Los Angeles Lakers. He would score only four points, but the inspiration of seeing him in uniform lifted an entire city.

It was that way for Stamkos on Wednesday night. After being missing from action since Feb. 25, so long the league might have forgotten his name, Stammer played for the Bolts. He scored a quick goal to help the Bolts to a 5-2 victory that gave them a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.

Stammer didn't hang around long. He played only five shifts, or 2:27 of ice time. But his goal and the lift it gave the Bolts was immeasurable. It was a signature moment, a career-defining moment, and it got his team within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

“I think the cheer (from the bench) was just a little bit louder," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You watch the kid and what’s he’s done for the last how-many-months for him to be able to do that. However Stammer was feeling at that moment, all the players expressed it on the bench.

“You marvel at players. He only had five shifts,  but it was as efficient a five shifts asyou're ever going to see in an NHL hockey league playoff  game. We’re with these players day in and day out all year. This is the season that seems to mever end. We’re watching a player come back and do what he did in the biggest stage of the biggest time of the year. You have to marvel at it. It was pretty damn cool.”

Stamkos appeared to tweak his injury, and didn't play in the final two periods. He said it was too soon to tell if he will be able to play in future games.

“It was just an amazing experience to share with my teammates," Stamkos said. "There's been a lot of hard work and different things behind the scenes. Just to get out and have an impact on a game... a month ago, it may never have been possible. It was amazing to be part of a huge win for us. I was happy to contribute in a game where I didn’t play too much.”

Stamkos had become a memory as Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat had led the team. All of them scored goals for the Bolts on Wednesday.

"You want to help your team win and you have to find ways to still be part of that," Stamkos said. "I’ve tried to do my best. It’s so painful to sit and watch and feel you have no part of the games. You’re way more nervous watching the games. You want to have a say and you want to contribute. "

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Stars is set for Friday, September 25 from Edmonton’s Rogers Place (8 p.m. puck drop) and will be the first half of a back-to-back set with Game 5 coming a day later on Saturday, September 26.

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