How Lightning’s Steven Stamkos broke out with a four-goal performance


Elite goal-scorers like Steven Stamkos realize that during times when it’s difficult to find the back of the net, goals can suddenly start coming in a flurry.

You just have to keep shooting.

But even Stamkos admits that scoring droughts can get to him. The more pucks you ping off a post or that go wild off your stick blade, the more you try to find the perfect shot to break out of your slump.

And then you just have to get back to basics and be more determined than ever to continue to shoot. Stamkos’ persistence paid off with a four-goal night in the Lightning’s 7-4 comeback win Thursday night over an Oilers team that was the hottest in the league, riding an eight-game winning streak.

Despite scoring 529 goals in his career — 36th on the NHL’s all-time list — Stamkos had never scored four in a game until Thursday night. He does have 12 career hat tricks.

“He’s going to go to the Hall of Fame because he shot the puck,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “For some guys the puck has eyes, and the more you do it, the more they go in.”

Stamkos entered Thursday goalless in his previous five games — he also missed a game in Seattle due to illness — and his struggles weren’t from not shooting the puck. He had 18 shots on goal, 30 attempts and 15 scoring chances over that stretch.

Chasing his 200th career power-play goal, Stamkos hadn’t scored with the man advantage in his previous eight games. As a group, the Lightning were 0-for-9 in their previous three games and 4-for-28 (14.3%) over their last nine.

“The last, probably, week or two, I’ve had some really quality chances that haven’t gone in the net, and it’s probably been bunching up for a moment like this and that’s what happens,” Stamkos said. “They come in spurts usually, so you just try not to get too down and continue to shoot the puck, and obviously they went in (Thursday), which was really nice to see.”

Stamkos got going early, scoring on his first shift of the game on the power play as the Lightning forced havoc in front of the Edmonton net. Nick Paul poked the puck out to Stamkos at the left circle for a one-timer, making Stamkos the 20th player to reach 200 power-play goals.

“You get one first shift of the game, everything feels better for the rest of the night,” Stamkos said. “You talk about having goal legs, the puck feels a little better on your blade. Your legs all of a sudden feel a little better, so that was nice.”

Stamkos’ most important goal of the night tied the game 6:48 into the third when he batted a puck out of the air from a tight angle — both of his feet were over the end line — past Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner shortside.

He then surprised Skinner again when he pulled up on the rush just inside the blue line and wristed a shot from long distance, using defenseman Evan Bouchard to screen the goaltender and put the Lightning up 5-3. Stamkos added an empty netter in the game’s final seconds.

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He had just seven shot attempts, but all were on goal.

“I always think he needs to shoot more and more and more,” Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “If he’s going to shoot 10 times in a game, he’s going to score two, because he’s just got a really accurate shot and he’s been in the league for 15 years being a leader on this team.

“He’s just a threat out there. He shot from the blue line (Thursday), and he scored because their goalie got screened a little bit. So anywhere he shoots it from, it’s got a chance.”

After Thursday’s performance, Stamkos’ 90 shots on goal rank in the 95th percentile of NHL skaters, according to NHL Edge. His 15.6% shooting percentage is in the 85th percentile.

“I’ve hit a lot of posts lately, and chances that I normally see go in the net haven’t. So, listen, you’re human,” Stamkos said. “You’re going to get a little in your own head sometimes. But when you get those chances, you just try to keep shooting them. Eventually, the odds say they’re going to go into the net. There’s a couple ones that maybe weren’t traditional goals (Thursday), but when you throw pucks at the net, you never know.”

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