TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists on his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, and the defending Stanley Cup champions kicked off the season with a 5-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
Stamkos underwent surgery in early March that kept him in the playoffs from all but one game, before undergoing another surgery in October to restore the same core muscle. Wednesday's game was the first full game that Stamkos played since February 22.
"It's the best I've felt in a long time," said Stamkos. "It is sometimes difficult in camp and those scrimmages you only have 10 days to prepare. Then you really take action, the instincts take over and you want to play there to play. But I felt good, I feel like I'm just going to build from that and keep getting stronger. & # 39; & # 39;
The Lightning captain has points in 17 consecutive games – including 14 goals.
Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat and Mathieu Joseph also scored to help Tampa Bay win their seventh consecutive season opener. Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn each ended with two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 23 saves.
Dylan Strome scored for Chicago and Malcolm Subban stopped 28 shots.
Tampa Bay sped to a 3-0 lead in the opening period following Palat's rebound power play goal, Joseph's diversion rebounding off Subban and Cirelli's deflection from Erik Cernak's shot.
"I felt like I was fighting my game a bit in the first period," said Subban, who made his first start with the Blackhawks. “A few goals were generated from rebounds. They may not get that chance if they keep it and stop a few times. But you should definitely look to build on that game. ""
Stamkos made it 4-0 with a power play goal in the second, one shot from the left circle where he scored so many goals during his career.
"Really happy that he could score," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "You really have to hand it to him because he's holding on to it and fighting with whatever he needs to get back into the game."
Aim a one-off Stamkos cross from the lock in the third that made it 5-0 before Strome broke the shutout bid with a power play goal that bounced off Vasilevskiy's skate with 3:24 over.
"Certainly not the way we wanted to start the year," said Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton. "We have given up too many chances and too many goals."
Chicago played without captain Jonathan Toews, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness.
Tampa Bay has unveiled its Stanley Cup championship banner for 2019-20 at a pregame ceremony, but will wait to lift it to the rafters until fans can attend.
Rookie defender Cal Foote, the son of former Colorado Avalanche defender Adam Foote, made his NHL debut for the Lightning. He took the usual solo round to warm up before the competition. Foote had one hit in 10:47 AM during the game, finishing as a plus-2.
Blackhawks: Friday in Tampa Bay.
Lightning: Host Chicago on Fridays.
. (tagsToTranslate) Lightning