Hextall on Hockey: Tampa’s captain returns

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos yells at an official during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The return of Steven Stamkos to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s lineup brings a sense of urgency to the team in a good way.

It signifies that the captain is likely returning from injury early in order to play because of how high the stakes are — Tampa Bay is tied with the Dallas Stars, at a game apiece, in the Stanley Cup Final.

It signals that this moment is now for Tampa. This is it — this is the window to win it all!

For this current group of players that have come up together, this is their chance to win the cup. After this season the salary cap/ flat cap era will force the team to make decisions on personnel, and not all will be back.
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For the captain — who has known no other team than Tampa since being drafted first overall by the organization in 2008 — this is the time in his career to win it all.

Stamkos is the spark that is set to strike, proven early in the first period of Game 3 when he scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs … in his first game in 210 days.

After the goal, which was a nice moment, Stamkos found his way to the bench and his night was over — 2 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time, five shifts, seven seconds with the puck on his stick — but he contributed to the win.

A win that lifted the Lightning to a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

A win that brought Stamkos and the lightening closer to the now!

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