For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is usually about the players on the ice.
This time, it was not.
Hours after finding out that they will be without Steven Stamkos for 1-3 months because of a blood clot in his right arm, the Lightning closed out its home season with a 3-1 victory over New Jersey. However, it was a somber time for the Bolts, who face the possibility of never seeing Stamkos in the uniform that has defined him as a pro.
“Obviously, this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason,” Stamkos said in a statement. “During my recovery I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”
The Bolts won without Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman, who has a broken leg, on Saturday night. Now, they face having to do it again and again.
Victor Hedman, Bryan Boyle and Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning in Saturday night’s win, the team’s 44th of the season.
“I think we did a lot of good thing throughout the whole game,” Victor Hedman said. “Obviously, we weren’t in the penalty box too much in the second period, so we got our legs moving in the third and created a lot of opportunities and got a lot of power plays and created some momentum.”
Ben Bishop had 25 saves on 26 shots.
“We have to continue to progress, continue to work at our game and continue to play with good habits, good structure,” Boyle said. “Those are the things we need to do from here on out and however long the season is going to go. If we want it to go long, we have to be very attentive to detail and make sure everybody knows exactly how we are supposed to play and demand it from each other.”
The Lightning’s magic number is now two. The team plays the Islanders Monday, the Rangers Tuesday and the Devils Thursday.