Lightning star Steven Stamkos shows off another side of his game in playoff opener

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The spectacular end-to-end rush by Steven Stamkos that resulted in Tampa Bay’s second goal Wednesday is the type of stuff of which playoff legends are made.

But it was an incident that took place about five minutes before the highlight-reel effort by Stamkos that shows just how many layers there are in the game of the Unionville, Ont. native.

With the puck near the Montreal Canadiens blueline midway through the second period, prized Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Ordrej Palat was crushed by savvy Habs veteran Andrei Markov near the boards. Seconds later, the first Tampa player to come to the aid of his fallen teammate was Stamkos, who immediately charged in and got into the face of the Habs blue liner.

The message sent by the Lightning superstar: nobody — NOBODY — pushes my team around.

Keep in mind that these aren’t your father’s Lightning. Tampa’s prized triplets who led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup 10 years ago — Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards — aren’t on the scene anymore, having been replaced by a cast of young inexperienced kids who are still cutting their teeth on the war known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Just consider this eye-opening fact: eight Lightning players in the lineup for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Canadiens had never played in an NHL post-season contest before. And that doesn’t count Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback, who came in with all of 13 career playoff minutes on his resume.

While its 5-4 OT loss in Game 1 will hurt, this young Lightning team will be going to school on every shift. And the lesson learned in the second period: their captain has their backs.

There are a lot of fans in cities where there is no playoff hockey — specifically, Toronto — who on many nights begged to see such a quality from the man wearing the “C” on the front of his jersey, only to be let down.

Steven Stamkos is only 24, but he continues to exhibit the qualities of someone well beyond his years. And the leadership he showed Wednesday in responding to seeing Palat go down is a trait we all witnessed for decades from the man who is now Tampa’s GM — Steve Yzerman.


Watching Stamkos strut his stuff, you couldn’t help but think how electrifying he would have been at the Sochi Olympics had he not been sidelined with a broken leg. Sure, Team Canada was dominant without him en route to winning the gold medal. Still, can you imagine how dynamic he would have been on the big ice taking feeds from Sidney Crosby? One can dare to dream … The Lightning isn’t known as a physical team, but you might have a hard time convincing the Canadiens’ Dale Weise of that after a Tampa player deposited him into the box between the benches occupied by CBC analyst Glenn Healy … Who would have guessed at that time that Weise would end up being the hero, scoring the overtime winner … Memo to anthem singer Max Defrancisco: we’re not sure what song you crooned out prior to the game but it certainly wasn’t O Canada. Are you related to Rosanne? That was brutal. The Lightning is a class organization, but it had to be embarrassed with that effort, especially knowing that it was witnessed from coast-to-coast north of the border by a television audience on Hockey Night in Canada … For those of you who didn’t see it — or, thankfully, hear it for that matter — go to the youtube link — … How tough is Habs pepperpot Brendan Gallagher? This kid took a puck in the throat and was back on the bench within two minutes.


Penguins star Evgeni Malkin may have missed much of the final month of the regular season with a foot injury, but the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner started Game 1 of the Pittsburgh-Columbus series as if he had never been away. That was on display right from the game’s opening faceoff when he swatted the puck, which had barely left the hand of the official, in the direction of the Blue Jacket zone, allowing the Pens to immediately go on the forecheck … Young Jackets defenceman Ryan Murray learned about Malkin’s competitiveness the hard way. Playing in his first NHL playoff game, his nose was bleeding profusely after being munched into the boards by Malkin in the first period. Jackets trainers could be seen stuffing tissue up both of Murray’s nostrils in order to contain the crimson gusher … Even after defeating the Jackets 4-3 in Game 1, Pittsburgh’s defensive-zone coverage, especially in front of the net, had better tighten up quickly. Plays such as the one in the first in which Brooks Orpik gave away the puck behind his own net — a play which led to the second Jackets goal — simply can not happen. If they do, there will be no Stanley Cup parade in Steeltown this year.


Whether you like him or not, kudos to Don Cherry for wearing a shamrock tie in honour of former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty, whose funeral was held on Wednesday.

Twitter: @Zeisberger