Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos doesn't care whether he's in the spotlight, but there was something odd about seeing Tyler Johnson excel thus far in the NHL playoffs while Stamkos struggled (at least, by his standards). But Wednesday in Game 3 of the Bolts' Eastern Conference Final series against the Rangers, the Lighting captain was a threat to score – and to run the opposition over with a robust physical game that included a massive hit on Blueshirts winger Kevin Hayes.
Just two minutes into the first period, Stamkos leveled Hayes, who was carrying the puck behind the Rangers' net with his head down:
Nine minutes later, Stamkos delivered another blow to the Blueshirts when he scored his fifth of the post-season and Tampa's first of Game 3 after batting a rebound past Henrik Lundqvist at the end of a 2-on-1 Bolts rush:
The goal cut the Rangers' 2-0 lead in half, and started a run of four consecutive Lightning goals that gave the Bolts a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes of play. Stamkos has been relatively quiet in the playoffs through his first 15 games, but stepping up as the games get bigger is exactly what you'd expect from a player of his calibre.