TAMPA — Marty St. Louis appreciation night saw St. Louis squarely in the spotlight.
Like so many times before, with so many eyes watching him, he found a way to deliver.
After brushing aside an emotional pregame ceremony to honor St. Louis for appearing in 1,000 career games, the captain promptly went out and scored a pair of goals and added an assist to help lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-0 victory against the New York Rangers in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.
“It was pretty emotional, the whole presentation,'' St. Louis said of the celebration. “Seeing my parents, my wife, my kids, and then when they started the video, I couldn't watch and I kind of lost it (emotionally). It was a special night with all the messages on the JumboTron, from people who helped me along the way — players, coaches, GMs. It was a special night. And to be able to win the game and contribute ... I felt like myself tonight, like a flash from the past.''
Rookie Nikita Kucherov ended up with the game-winning goal, scoring his first career goal, which came on his first career shift and his first shot. Teddy Purcell scored twice and added an assist, and Valtteri Filppula had a pair of assists to help Tampa Bay snap a four-game winless streak.
Ben Bishop stopped 37 shots to record his second shutout of the season and fifth of his career as the Lightning won their sixth consecutive game at home while snapping New York's six-game road winning streak. Bishop improved to 4-0 all-time against the Rangers, posting his second career shutout against New York, and has allowed three goals in four games against the Rangers.
Since suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, Bishop has responded in the past two games, stopping 76 of 77 shots while allowing one goal.
But not even Bishop's performance was enough to take the spotlight away from St. Louis.
“Guys like that rise to the occasion and sure enough he goes out there and scores two goals after that ceremony, and I guess we should expect nothing less from him,'' Bishop said. “He worked a lot of years to get to here, so one little shutout (from me) is not going to overlook that.''
Kucherov, called up Sunday to make his NHL debut after being second overall in scoring in the American Hockey League, wasted no time showing what he can bring, getting a wrist shot off a feed from Purcell from the end boards that eluded New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist 2:12 into the game.
“I was just in the right spot at the right time, and Teddy made a good pass to me and (Alex Killorn) was in front, so I just needed to shoot the puck on net,'' Kucherov said. “I didn't see it go in, I just saw Killer with his hands up. (But I thought) cool, it went in. I was just so happy to score a goal.''
St. Louis quickly added to that, getting behind the defense and lifting a wrist shot over Lundqvist 58 seconds later, which led to an outburst of emotion that was followed by a stumble to the ice while he celebrated.
“I was so excited, and then I take a nice fall, but I really didn't even care,'' St. Louis said with a grin. “I was so excited to score, and I don't know what happened because I've done that pump a few times, but maybe it was a little too hard this time.''
Bishop ensured the score would stay 2-0 after the first period, stopping all 17 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes before St. Louis would again get behind the defense early in the second period and just like his chance in the first period, lifted the puck over Lundqvist 3:12 into the second period.
From there, the Lightning managed the game efficiently even after Lundqvist, who allowed four goals on 22 shots, gave way to Cam Talbot to start the third, to ensure that the special night for St. Louis would end the right way.
“You can't measure the man, you have to measure the size of his heart, and it's just great watching him play,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He deserved everything he has received and more. You have events like this, you never know how the game is going to go, and for us to pull out the game the way we did, for him to contribute the way he did, there is a little story book in it.''