Stamkos scores 51st goal in Lightning’s 3-1 win
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Scoring into an empty net didn’t make Steven Stamkos’ 51st goal any less fulfilling.
Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay also scored, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 Sunday.
Stamkos chased down a loose puck and got an empty-netter with 13 seconds left to tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the league lead and share a piece of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.
“That’s probably the fastest I’ve skated all year,” Stamkos said. “After all the posts I’ve had, sometimes you get one like that. It’s nice either way. I’ll take it. I guess it was meant to be, to get that one in the empty net.”
Crosby scored twice in the Penguins’ win over the New York Islanders. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin remained at 50 after he was held scoreless in the Capitals’ loss to Boston.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Stamkos said. “To do it my second year in the league and to share it with players like Crosby is pretty special and with a guy like Ovechkin in the mix is pretty special because he’s such a dominant scorer.”
Mike Smith made 30 saves for the Lightning, who finished the season with three straight wins.
Rostislav Olesz scored for Florida and Scott Clemmensen stopped 28 shots.
Olesz scored at 2:06 of the first give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. He dug the puck out of the corner, then brought it out and shot from the right circle. The puck trickled under Smith’s pad for Olesz’s first goal in 32 games.
The Lightning tied it on Tanguay’s goal at 8:01 of the first. Brandon Bochenski took a shot from the slot. Clemmensen stopped it but Tanguay swooped in for the rebound and put it in with a wrist shot.
The Lightning took a 2-1 lead a few minutes later when Lecavalier put a wrist shot high into the net over Clemmensen at 10:20.
After Stamkos scored the Lightning bench erupted.
“The whole bench was up,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “It looked like he was shot out of a cannon (on the play). He was just flying. There’s so many names on that trophy. It’s pretty impressive.”
Stamkos had several other chances to score. Clemmensen made a pad save after it appeared Stamkos had him beat with a deke to the backhand at 14:23 of the first.
At 20 years, 2 months and 3 days, Stamkos is the third-youngest player to reach 50 goals in a season. Only Wayne Gretzky (19 years, 2 months) and Jimmy Carson (19 years, 8 months) were younger when they had a 50-goal season. Stamkos, the No. overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, is the 88th player to reach the mark.
Lecavalier has the single-season franchise mark for Tampa Bay with 52 goals set during the 2006-07 season.
The Lightning missed the playoffs for the third straight season but finished with their highest point total (80) since recording 93 in 2006-07.
Florida hasn’t made the playoffs since the 1999-00 season.
“I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence and give you a silver lining or a positive spin on this. It’s a disappoining year across the board,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.
It was an especially frustrating season since Florida barely missed the playoffs last year on a tiebreaker with Montreal.
“I really thought this was going to be a breakout year for us,” Panthers assistant captain Stephen Weiss said. “After last year we had a lot of momentum and just couldn’t get it done. It’s certainly disappointing and it’s going to be another long summer.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay recalled defenseman Scott Jackson from the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Jackson made his NHL debut in Sunday’s game. … The Panthers are 7-5-2 with two ties in season finales in franchise history, while the Lightning improved to 3-12-1 with one tie in season-ending games.
Updated April 11, 2010