Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been ruled out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup final.
“Stamkos, he’s done for the series,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Sunday. “Hopefully next time you see him on the ice it’s during a trophy presentation.”
The Lightning are up three games to two on the Dallas Stars in part because of Stamkos’s comeback efforts in Game 3 — his first game since core muscle surgery in late February. He played just five shifts, a total of two minutes and 47 seconds in the first period, but scored a goal and teammates said his presence and hard work gave them a lift.
“We had the conversation (Sunday morning),” said Cooper. “There’s only one or two games left in the series. He did everything he could to get back, and he did get back, and unfortunately he couldn’t go any further.”
After recovering from core surgery, Stamkos suffered a setback in training for the pandemic-delayed playoffs, then another one in Wednesday’s game.
“I’m sure this will all be addressed after the series is over,” said Cooper. “To be honest, I didn’t think he’d be playing at all in these playoffs …
“He gave us 2:47 of brilliant hockey. That’s a phenomenal story. Scored a huge goal for us in the win. Hopefully we can keep that momentum with us moving forward. He’s for sure missed on the ice.”
Game 6 is Monday night in Edmonton.
The core injury was the latest in a series of major health setbacks for Stamkos:
- A broken leg cost him a spot on Canada’s Olympic champion team in 2014.
- He missed most of the 2016 playoffs after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring surgery.
- A torn meniscus in his right knee cost him most of the 2016-17 season, in which Tampa failed to make the playoffs.
If the Lightning go on to win the Cup, his goal in Game 3 — speeding down the right wing, eluding a check and beating goalie Anton Khudobin — could go down in the annals of hockey’s great team-rallying moments.
“For him to score that goal, it meant so much for us because he’s such a leader, such a teammate, such a friend,” defenceman Victor Hedman said after Stamkos scored.
“It was just an amazing experience to share with my teammates,” Stamkos said after the goal. “There’s been a lot of hard work and different things behind the scenes. Just to be able to get out to a game, and have an impact on the game, that a month ago didn’t look like it was possible. I was just really happy to contribute.”