Steven Stamkos made a surprise return in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final.
Out since February 25, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain scored on his third shift and his very first shot of the game. The goal gave the Lightning an early 2-0 lead, 6:58 into the first period.
Stamkos caught a cross-ice stretch pass from Victor Hedman and deked around a Dallas defender. As he skated alone down the right right, Stamkos roofed the puck to the far side of the net past a helpless Anton Khudobin.
Steven Stamkos still knows how to shoot a puck pic.twitter.com/4XXF5xmRSU
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) September 24, 2020
Yup, he’s still got it.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) September 24, 2020
According to the NHL’s PR, Stamkos became the second player ever to score a goal while skating in his first game of the playoffs during the Stanley Cup Final.
Steven Stamkos became the second NHL player – and first in more than 80 years – to score a goal while skating in his first game of the playoffs during the #StanleyCup Final. The other was Billy Taylor Sr. with Toronto in 1940 (Game 2 vs. NYR).#NHLStats: https://t.co/paTUCACJI8 pic.twitter.com/NATYyuBdz0
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 24, 2020
Stamkos would only take two more shifts in the first period, for a total of 2:47 of ice time.
Stamkos would miss the start of the second period but would eventually return to the bench a few minutes later. Stamkos gingerly skated around the ice during a break in play but sat out for the rest of the game. Stamkos was spotted performing his captain duties and speaking to officials when penalties were called.
The Lightning would go on to win 5-2 taking a 2-1 lead in the championship series.
“It was just an amazing experience to share with my teammates,” Stamkos said afterward. “There’s been a lot of hard work and different things going on behind the scenes, so to get into a game and have an impact on a game when a month ago that might not have been possible. It was amazing to be part of a huge win for us. I was just happy to contribute in a game where I didn’t play that much.”
Stamkos, who called his return “tricky”, deftly sidestepped a question if he tweaked something during the game.
“I wanted to play as much as I could, but obviously there’s an issue that I’ve been working through,” Stamkos said. “We’ll see what happens from here. I was just extremely happy to be out there with these guys and have a chance to just be on the bench. We have a lot more hockey in this series.”
Stamkos missed the end of the pandemic-shortened season after having core muscle surgery in February. He fully recovered in early March, but suffered a different “lower body” injury during voluntary workouts.
Stamkos, while wearing a Lightning jersey and no pads, celebrated with the Lightning on the ice after they became Eastern Conference Champions.
During Stanley Cup Final media day, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said that Stamkos was still rehabbing but “We haven’t ruled him out” of playing in the series.
Stamkos took warmups in Game Two.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 21, 2020
And Game Three he made his shocking return. Games Four and Five will be back-to-back games held on Friday and Saturday.
Steven Stamkos technically brings a 15-game point streak into tonight.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 23, 2020
Screenshot courtesy of NBCSN
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