TAMPA – Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos have had to take more aggressive roles with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season with the addition of new players and the loss of depth in the third and fourth lines. The Lightning took a 2-1 win over Ottawa on Thursday night as Stamkos and Hedman were the catalysts in the victory.
Stamkos recorded the 900th point of his career with an assist on Hedman’s game-winning goal on the power play at 15:05 in the second period. Hedman drove a shot from the point by Senators goalie Anton Forsberg to put the Lightning ahead 2-1.
“My over/under on his goals – I watched is 500 of them? What do you guys think? asked coach Jon Cooper. “900 is a big number and to be able to do that it obviously says something about why he was the No. 1 overall pick, especially now with the season he is having.”
Stamkos has eight points in his last five games as he has been a major key in Tampa Bay going 7-1-1 in their last nine games as the Bolts have tied Toronto with 42 points to lead the Atlantic Division and they are second to Washington (43) in the Eastern Conference.
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“If you look at where we were in the standings the first two weeks of the season and some other teams took off, I think if you’re defending champs, you don’t go unnoticed but there were lots of teams you were noticing over us and we are fine with that,” said Cooper, “Every night, it is something different and they just find a way.”
Trailing 1-0 on a goal by Thomas Chabot to end the first period, the Lightning struck quick in the second when Alex Killorn took a pass from Ross Colton to tie the game at 1-1 at 3:47. Colton drew goalie Anton Forsberg to his left and he didn’t have the opportunity to get back over to try to defense Killorn, who scored his ninth goal of the season.
“I think first of all, too many players judge themselves on how many points he gets,” noted Cooper. “Last year he (Colton) comes in and contributes and scores and then these young guys come in and find their way. He has a skill level to play anywhere in the line up and at some point with these kids, you have to move up.”
Hedman picked up his 23rd assist of the season as he is second now on the team with 30 points. Getting him to operate in a more offense manner from the point as been a point of emphasis and it is a key in the making of this team.
“We have seen Heddy over the past couple of games shoot the puck,” said Stamkos. “He has a heavy shot and tonight it went through the goalie. He is a big part of what we are trying to do off the power play and tonight we saw that.”
Cooper said that Hedman puts a lot of pressure on himself as he has a high bar in how he should perform.
“Victor sets a high standard and if he is not playing up to his standard and you say, ‘What’s wrong with Victor,’ but if you take the name off his back you are pretty happy with Victor,” explained Cooper. “Our power play is best when Victor is shooting and when the puck is on his stick a lot it’s great when he is shooting and we have seen that a lot lately.”
As both Hedman and Stamkos are two pillars of the franchise, the fact that Stamkos could assist Hedman for his 900th point drew irony.
“It’s fitting for him to be part of that we have been here since day one and it’s great we can go through that together,” said Stamkos. He’s a tremendous friend and a tremendous teammate.”