TAMPA, Fla. — It took more than 21 years, but Chris Kontos has some company in Tampa Bay Lightning lore.
Marty St. Louis tied the team record for most goals in a game with four in the Lightning’s 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The feat matched Kontos’ output in a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 7, 1992, at Expo Hall against Ed Belfour in the Lightning’ first game.
"I don’t think you’re trying to get to four," St. Louis said. "I just think you’re trying to help put your team in a position to win a game and get the next one. … You’re trying to put yourself in a position to help your team win. You get good bounces along the way. Yeah, some of them go in, and you’re helping your team."
St. Louis, 38, did plenty to help the Lightning against the Sharks, who have 68 points after their third consecutive victory, good for fourth place in the deep Western Conference. He scored three times in the first period against goalie Antti Niemi, who began the day with a 24-10-6 record, a 2.35 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. The record-tying score came on a power-play goal two minutes, seven seconds into the second period, giving Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead, with assists from winger Teddy Purcell and center Tyler Johnson.
St. Louis, who has a team-high 25 goals and 49 points, has kept the Lightning contenders in the Eastern Conference since their young superstar, Steven Stamkos, underwent surgery for a fractured right tibia sustained in a loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11. The native of Laval, Quebec, began Saturday with a six-game point streak, earning foul goals and three assists in the stretch. He reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th time in his 15-year career on Jan. 11 in a victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The loss to the Sharks, however, dulled the mood in the Lightning dressing room afterward. San Jose center Joe Pavelski had three goals, all in the second period, to help hand Tampa Bay its fifth consecutive home defeat despite St. Louis’ effort.
"I noticed before he scored his first goal, I thought to myself, ‘He’s flying today,’ and he scores three in the first and one in the second," Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. "But it’s tough when you’ve only got one guy playing that hard. As a team, we let him down."
Said Johnson: "He deserved all those chances. He worked extremely hard. He was our best player tonight."
Most recently, the discussion about St. Louis had centered around his visible snub from Team Canada for the Sochi Games when the roster was announced Jan. 7, made awkward by the fact that Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay’s vice president and general manager, was the executive responsible for constructing the Canadian national team. Since, though, St. Louis had maintained a strong level of play as the Lightning’ ninth captain.
Meanwhile, Kontos’ lone season with the Lightning was in the 1992-93 campaign, his final year in the NHL. Then, the Toronto native had 27 goals and 24 assists in 66 games. From 1982-1990, he had stints with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.
Because St. Louis was unable to reach five goals, Kontos still has a place reserved in Lightning history. After Saturday, he’s no longer alone.
"I don’t think he’s done," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of St. Louis. "It’s pretty impressive. That’s what’s really disappointing about tonight. For him to have the type of game he had tonight, for us to come out on the losing end, it kind of puts a sting (on the feeling). … He’ll probably be the first one to tell you it doesn’t mean quite as much because we didn’t win the game."