Captain Steven Stamkos lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a much-needed win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night in true Stamkos fashion: three goals on three shots — a natural hat trick by any hockey standard.
The Maple Leafs probably don’t want to imagine what could have happened if Stamkos had kept shooting, especially with the net drama brewing in Toronto these days. Nearly 24 hours after coach Randy Carlyle made a post-game comment about backup goalie James Reimer‘s performance on Tuesday night the Leafs’ net problems has never been clearer.
For Toronto, the game at Air Canada Centre only solidified how right Carlyle was (funny how that usually happens) and the absolute need for starting goalie Jonathan Bernier to get healthy as soon as possible.
But for the visiting Lightning, who entered the game only one point above the Leafs in the standings, Wednesday brought relief as their captain returned to normal just in time to push his team through the final stretch of the season, bringing much-needed relief to Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
While Stamkos has been out with a broken leg for much of this season, the Lightning managed to stay afloat in the standings thanks to Bishop’s stellar presence in net. Bishop is currently ranked fourth with a .928 save percentage and just a few days ago secured the Tampa Bay franchise record with most wins in a regular season. He now has 33.
Stamkos’ ability to lead the team down this final stretch of games will surely help balance out any errors to Bishop’s game.
Although Stamkos’ return from injury came seven games ago, tonight was the first in which he looked like the Steven Stamkos who shot out of the gates at the start of the season. He is helping the Lightning to once again prove they are a force not to be overlooked come playoff time.