For the first time in nearly seven months Steven Stamkos was back in the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
He wasted no time in making an impact.
Just 6:58 into the first period, and on his third shift of the night, Stamkos scored to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead over the Dallas Stars. It is the first Stanley Cup Final goal of his career and it came on his very first shot this postseason.
Here is a look at the play.
Stamkos had been sidelined since the end of February due to a lower-body injury and surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
He has been with the team throughout the entire 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs but has not yet been able to return to the lineup. That changed on Wednesday when he started the game on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Patrick Maroon. He replaced Carter Verhaeghe on that line.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
But while he was able to score early in the game, Stamkos did not take a single shift during the final seven minutes of the first period and was not on the team’s bench for the start of the second period. He eventually returned to the bench but was not taking a regular shift with his line.
Stamkos was having another monster season for the Lightning — recording 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 regular season games — before his injury knocked him out of the lineup. Injuries have been an issue for Stamkos throughout his career and this was just the latest one to knock him out of the lineup for a significant period of time through the playoffs. His return on Wednesday is reminiscent of when he missed all but one game of 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs, returning for the Lightning’s Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Final.
He had a 15-game point streak going at the time of his injury this season and with his goal on Wednesday has now recorded at least one point in each of his past 16 games played.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.