One win away from going back to the Stanley Cup Final to defend their title, and everything has clicked for Tampa Bay. Point is in the midst of an eight-game scoring streak. Kucherov, after missing the entire regular season, leads all players in playoff points.
So it’s reasonable Stamkos hasn’t been the top-billed narrative, and it’s reasonable his lack of production before Game 5 hasn’t been questioned severely.
The Lightning star center, who missed the end of the regular season with injury, scored twice in Tampa’s 8-0 thrashing of the Islanders in Game 5. That win put them ahead in the series 3-2, on a night where everything clicked throughout the lineup.
Stamkos’ first goal started the onslaught, coming just 45 seconds into the contest. That, as it turned out, would be the game winner, even seven tallies later.
Those were his first two tallies in a Stanley Cup Semifinal where the Lightning haven’t needed him to produce. The aforementioned Point and Kucherov have done plenty of that.
In fact, right before Game 5, there were questions of how healthy the 31-year-old was. He played just 2:44 of even-strength minutes in the third period of the Game 4 loss. His line of himself, Alex Killorn, and Anthony Cirelli hadn’t tallied a single five-on-five point. He himself had just five shots on goal in the first four contests of the series before getting five looks on net in Game 5 alone.
Asked post game about his health, and Stamkos’ answer wasn’t exactly reassuring.
“Um, good enough to play,” Stamkos said. “It’s the most fun part of the year. It’s just great to be back with these guys during this run. Big game tonight, so looking for a response.”
Game 5 alleviated some of those concerns, and it didn’t take long with the quick strike in the first period. Perhaps that’s what he needed, with less personal pressure. The rout was the perfect spot for the Lightning to work out any of their few flaws ahead of a potential series-clinching game.
Before the current round, Stamkos had been a point-per-game player in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and 10 assists in 16 games, even if the majority of them (11) have come on the power play.
The Lightning have proven they don’t need every part of their offense clicking to win games. One night it’ll be Kucherov defying logic, and every night, apparently, Point is worth a goal.
Perhaps Stamkos is playing through something. Perhaps it’s what cost him the end of the regular season. Maybe Game 5 won’t awaken him for the rest of the postseason, even. The Lightning continue to find ways to produce regardless, though.
Stamkos coming alive is just another possible element in the Lightning’s path back to the Cup Final. They don’t need him to be 2011-esque Stamkos, not with their offensive depth; a resurgence doesn’t hurt, though.
ISLANDERS VS. LIGHTNING (TB leads 3-2) – series livestream link
Game 1: Islanders 2, Lightning 1
Game 2: Lightning 4, Islanders 2
Game 3: Lightning 2, Islanders 1
Game 4: Islanders 3, Lightning 2
Game 5: Lightning 8, Islanders 0
Game 6: Wed. June 23: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 7: Fri. June 25: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)