Steven Stamkos records his first 100-point season in the Lightning’s 4-1 win over Columbus

It’s one of those stats that made you recheck the record books. Until this season, Steven Stamkos hadn’t had a 100-point season in his career. Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Well, that’s no longer the case as the Tampa Bay Lightning captain had four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in the team’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

It was Stamkos’ fifth straight game with three or more points, a feat the league hadn’t seen since the days of Mario Lemieux. Nikita Kucherov (1 goal, 3 assists) joined him with several points while Ondrej Palat also netted. Andrei Vasilevskiy was accurate in stopping 20 of 21 shots as Columbus pushed the Lightning a bit more than expected. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 28 of 32 goals while Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the only goal for the Blue Jackets.

Let’s go ahead and just look at the three points Stamkos needed to reach the century mark.

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Who read and go through Stamkos. It’s a game that a confident team makes, because if it goes wrong, it goes wrong the wrong way. He spotted Kucherov coming off the bench and knew he would head for the high slot and put the puck where Kucherov was heading. If that pass is blocked or caught, it’s an odd run the other way with defenders caught off guard in the offensive zone. It was executed to perfection and Kucherov wired the projected shot just past Merzlikins.

Nikita Kucherov (Steven Stamkos, Nick Paul)

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A patented Stamkosian one-timer of the circle. The first unit was absolutely buzzing on this powerplay opportunity and had almost scored seconds earlier. The speed with which they moved the puck made it nearly impossible to stop. Kucherov’s one-touch pass through a small seam in the middle of the ice makes play. Merzlikins needs to hold just a little to make sure Point doesn’t cut him and shoot from the slot. It’s just a one-second dash that Stamkos needs to rip it home.

Steven Stamkos (Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman) Power play

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Stamkos was quick to thank his teammates for helping him achieve his individual goals and this point is proof positive of the fun of playing with world-class hockey players. Kucherov doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to create turnovers in the attacking zone and here he harassed Vladislav Gavrikov until the young defender spat him out. Stamkos went on the ice and Kucherov put him on his stick.

Steven Stamkos (Nikita Kucherov)

So it was a good night for the milestones (Hedman picked up his 600th point on Stamkos’ first goal) but was it a good night for the Lightning as a playoff team? Somehow. They won a game convincingly even though they didn’t play their best.

Although he outclassed the Blue Jackets in the first period, Columbus pushed the game a bit in terms of possession. Even with a plethora of shots blocked by the Lightning, Columbus had the advantage in scoring chances and expected goals thanks in part to some loose puck management from the Lightning.

A few bad penalties also gave the Blue Jackets time on the power play and they connected on one to tie the game at one point.

Oliver Bjorkstrand (Jack Roslovic, Zach Werenski) Power play

Another power play later in the period was killed by the Lightning, but it cost them a player as Erik Cernak took a puck to the face and walked off the ice. He wouldn’t return to play. One positive is that it gave the coaching staff a bit more time to assess Zach Bogosian (19:22) and Cal Foote (20:44) as both had quite a bit of time of ice.

The second period was better for the Lightning as they got a little more puck control and evened the possession count. While the Blue Jackets might have kept pace in terms of shooting, the Lightning dominated in quality as they posted a 61.85 xGF% at 5v5 according to Natural Stat Trick.

Columbus came out strong in the third period and really pushed back, keeping the puck in the Lightning zone for much of the period. Tampa Bay managed to score against the run of play as Kucherov picked up another assist on a fine play behind the net. Ondrej Palat came through the crease at just the right time to beat Merzlikins for the Lightning’s fourth goal of the night. Stamkos got the second assist to take his tally for the season to 101.

Ondrej Palat (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos)

Despite the final score, it wasn’t a perfect game for the Lightning, but they did enough to win in a game that must have been hard to find motivation for. One thing the coaching staff will like is that the team has limited actual shots at the net. Despite a lot of time of possession and shot attempts (63 total) for Columbus, shots from dangerous areas decreased as the game progressed.

When they got a good look at the net, Vasilevskiy was there to make the saves. Columbus posted a 2.45 expected goal for the game and Vasy allowed just one. It’s a good night for a goalie.

Blocking shots, converting chances, including power plays, and getting key saves from your goalie is usually a pretty good way to succeed in the playoffs. There were signs tonight that the Lightning are moving towards that style of hockey.