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Apr 10, 2024 2:58 pm

Lightning ride red-hot Steven Stamkos into tilt vs. Sens

Steven Stamkos, Senators

Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos is not quite sure why he suddenly has a hot stick during a six-game goal streak, but the Lightning center will take all of them with the playoffs looming.

The team captain and his Lightning teammates will host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in their final meeting this season.

After Anthony Cirelli’s career-high 20th goal gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Stamkos put the club’s 24th home win in the books with a pair of goals. The final one, which gave him a hat trick, was an empty-netter.

“Every goal you score in this league is pretty special,” said Stamkos, who recorded his 13th career hat trick and has totaled 39 goals, including 19 on the power play. “When you get three in a game, you remember that, for sure.”

A free agent after this season, the lifelong Bolt has 10 goals in the past six games.

“When you have a hot hand, you want to get into position to shoot the puck,” he said. “For whatever reason, they’re going in.”

The Lightning (44-27-7) won two of three from Columbus in the season series.

“He’s just a goal scorer, so I feel like he’s always streaking,” said linemate Brandon Hagel, who has a career-high 72 points. “He doesn’t have too many stretches where he’s not scoring. And when he does, he finds a way to put six or seven together in a matter of no time. If he’s open, there’s a good chance the puck’s in the net.”

Nikita Kucherov crafted his 10th three-assist outing of the season — his second time with that many in a season.

The only other players with multiple seasons compiling double-digit, three-assist games are Connor McDavid, Joe Thornton, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.

The Senators (34-40-4) have won two of the three matches with Tampa Bay, but coach Jacques Martin’s club is probably happy to be done playing against the Florida Panthers.

While the Lightning were pulling away from Columbus on Tuesday, Ottawa could muster nothing offensively against the reigning Eastern Conference champions in a 2-0 setback in South Florida.

Florida scored twice in a span of 2:46 in the opening frame, but the Senators went 0-for-3 on the power play and could not beat backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz in the 25 shots they sent on him.

The shutout was the third this season against the Senators — all by the Panthers, who recorded three shutouts against a team for just the second time in franchise history.

Worse yet is Ottawa’s final record against Florida: They went 0-4 and were outscored 16-2.

Center Tim Stutzle, who was injured last Thursday on a hit by Florida’s Niko Mikkola in Ottawa, has missed the past three matches, but Martin said he expects the 18-goal, 70-point scorer back in the lineup in Tampa.

Top-line center Josh Norris (upper body) has not played in the past 21 matches.

With its two top pivots on the shelf, scoring has become problematic.

“That’s a big part of our ID, especially with some skill players out of our lineup,” Martin said following the Florida loss. “We’ve got to grind and get more shots to the net and some rebounds.”

–Field Level Media

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