TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos stopped worrying about not a scoring goal over an extended period.
On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay star showed why.
Stamkos had three goals and an assist, Valtteri Filppula added two goals, and the Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 7-2 on Thursday night.
Stamkos, second in the NHL with 29 goals during the abbreviated 2012-13 season, stopped a five-game goal drought dating back to last season.
“To be completely honest, I think this might have been the first time that I didn’t (worry),” Stamkos said.
“Usually I do. If I don’t score one game, sometimes you have trouble sleeping, thinking what you should have done. I just kind of had an eerie feeling that tonight was going to be a good night.”
Stamkos completed his sixth career hat trick on a one-timer from the top of the left circle during a power play at 12:25 of the third.
“He scores when he get opportunties,” Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. “It’s a lot nicer having him on your team than playing against him.”
Martin St. Louis added a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who have won three in a row after a season-opening loss at Boston. Bishop made 19 saves and improved to 3-0 on the season.
Florida, which lost three of four during a season-opening road trip, got goals from Brad Boyes and Jonathan Huberdeau.
“We didn’t respond well to pressure,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. “When they pressured our players, instead of responding to that, understanding that it was coming, I think it created turmoil for us.”
Filppula scored consecutive third-period goals to give the Lightning a 6-2 lead.
St. Louis, playing at home for the first time since being selected team captain earlier this month, made it 1-0 off a pass through the slot by Stamkos 8:13 into the game.
St. Louis has 917 points, which moved him past Bobby Orr (915) into 94th place on the NHL all-time list.
“I don’t think it’s something that you think about when you start your career,” St. Louis said. “A pretty special player that I get to pass.”
St. Louis’ goal marked the first time this season that Tampa Bay took a lead during regulation. The Lightning’s other two victories came in overtime and a shootout after third-period comebacks.
Stamkos put the Lightning up 2-0 when he beat goalie Jacob Markstrom for a short-handed goal at 13:54 of the first. It was Tampa Bay’s first short-handed goal since Ryan Malone scored one on March 26, 2012.
“You know they’re dynamic,” Dineen said of Stamkos and St. Louis. “You know that if one guy has the puck, he’s looking for the other guy, that they’re really highly skilled players, but more than anything, they work as hard as anybody in the league. If you don’t match that, if you don’t have 100 percent buy-in and effort to try to contain them, you’re going to get lit up like we did tonight.”
Boyes got the Panthers within 2-1 on a power-play goal 59 seconds into the second. Florida had failed to convert on its previous 17 man-advantage opportunities this season.
Tampa Bay went up 3-1 when Stamkos scored from the right circle with 8:21 left in the second. Ondrej Palat added a late second-period goal.
Huberdeau, last season’s Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, scored his first goal in nine games early in the third.
NOTES: Florida G Tim Thomas (groin) said he felt “better” after skating and taking some shots Thursday. Dineen said it’s very doubtful that Thomas, who was hurt Tuesday at Philadelphia, will be ready for Friday’s home opener. … Panthers C Shawn Matthias played after missing the morning skate due to flulike symptoms. … Markstrom was pulled midway through the third after allowing six goals on 24 shots.