TAMPA, Fla. – Steven Stamkos didn’t lose his scoring touch during the off-season.
Stamkos had two goals and an assist to help new Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher win his NHL debut in the Lightning’s 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night.
“It’s a good way to start a season,” Stamkos said.
Stamkos had 51 goals last season to tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. Steve Downie, Dominic Moore and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning in their season opener.
“I’ve played with Stamkos a couple of times at the world championships and I know he’s got unbelievable hands,” said Atlanta goalie Chris Mason, who made 31 saves. “Both his goals were great tips.”
The Thrashers, who trailed 4-0 in the second period, got goals from Tobias Enstrom, Ben Eager and Chris Thorburn.
“Overall, our team really showed courage to come back,” Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. “But you can’t fall behind that much.”
Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec, diagnosed with a concussion, remained hospitalized Saturday. He was undergoing additional tests to determine why he collapsed in Friday night in the team’s season-opening 4-2 win over Washington.
“I talked to him,” Ramsay said. “He sounded great. He had a great attitude. They’ve been doing a lot of tests and so far everything is normal. We’ll just hope for the best.”
Boucher was hired as the Lightning’s seventh head coach June 10. He coached Montreal’s AHL farm team in Hamilton last season, going 52-17-11 en route to the Western Conference finals.
“Yes it does … it feels good,” Boucher said.
Thorburn pulled Atlanta within 4-3 at 7:41 of the third. Stamkos responded with a nifty waist-high redirection from the low slot to put the Lightning back up by two with 9:01 to play.
“I was scared it was a high-stick at first,” Stamkos said.
After Downie scored a power-play goal at 5:23 of the first, Moore put the Lightning ahead 2-0 with 11:39 left in the period. Tampa Bay outshot the Thrashers 20-13 during the first.
Lecavalier’s power-play goal 2:20 into the second period made it 3-0. Stamkos extended the lead to 4-0 at 5:21.
The Thrashers cut the deficit to 4-2 late in the second. Enstrom scored during a 5-on-3 power play with 3:29 remaining before Eager added an unassisted goal at 18:12.
Tampa Bay’s Mike Smith made 27 saves.
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 21-8-1-2 at home against the Thrashers. … Atlanta called up G Drew MacIntyre from their AHL affiliate in Chicago to back up Mason. … Tampa Bay D Mattias Ohlund (knee) didn’t play. … Lecavalier has 27 goals and 60 points in 61 games against Atlanta.