Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain Steven Stamkos hasn’t stepped on the ice in an official NHL game since February before making an appearance against the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. But it didn’t make any difference, as Stamkos immediately made an impact, scoring on his first shot and fueling Tampa Bay to a 5-2 win.
Stamkos underwent a core muscle surgery in March and then had another injury during training camp that further postponed his return. The 30-year-old ended up playing just three minutes against Stars, but even that was enough to count as a successful comeback.
”Just to be able to get out into a game and have an impact on a game, which a month ago may have never been possible’,’ said Stamkos after the game. ”It’s been such a long time. At this time of the year, you want to do anything you can to help your team win. I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true.”
Stamkos’ goal gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, while Stars cut it in half thanks to Jason Dickinson. However, inspired by their captain’s return, Tampa Bay had an even more dominant performance in the second period, scoring three goals to make it 5-1.
In the third quarter, Stars only managed to make the defeat more bearable as Miro Heiskanen set the final score of 5-2.
With this win, Lightning took the 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 is scheduled to take place on Friday.