EDMONTON, Alberta - Steven Stamkos scored on his first shot since February, then left with another injury but the Tampa Bay Lightning kept dominating without him, blowing the Dallas Stars out of an empty arena with a 5-2 rout in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night to take a 2- series lead.
Even though he only skated five shifts, the Lightning captain making his 2020 playoff debut 211 days after he last played in an NHL game gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead and a jolt. He made the most of that time with a vintage Stamkos goal going around Esa Lindell and sniping a shot past Anton Khudobin.
"We were really excited," forward Alex Killorn said. "He told us he was ready, he comes out, gets a shot on net and scores a goal. It really elevated our team. So happy for him to be back and be a part of this."
Stamkos, who was out so long with a core muscle injury, skated off gingerly at the end of his final shift in the first period and was not on the bench for the start of the second. He took a few twirls to test out the injury but did not return.
The Lightning were just fine with Stamkos offering moral support sitting in the middle of the bench.
They got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain and big saves from their Vezina Trophy finalist goaltender, while the Stars' best players were quiet once again or made big mistakes to contribute to the loss. Nikita Kucherov, Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat all scored for Tampa Bay, which was the better team from the start of the second period on.
Khudobin was under pressure most of the night and allowed five goals on 29 shots before coach Rick Bowness replaced him at the start of the third with rookie Jake Oettinger. At the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiy made a few big saves among his 31, including a brilliant left pad stop on Corey Perry early in the game.