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Friday, May 25, 2018
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St. Louis makes history as Bolts' season comes to close

TAMPA - The sting of defeat will one day fade away. The bitter taste from a disappointing season will eventually dissolve.

But what Marty St. Louis accomplished this season will go down in the history books.

With a goal and an assist in the Lightning's 5-3 loss to Florida in the season finale on Saturday, St. Louis finished the season with 60 points to capture the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer. In doing so, he became, at age 37, the oldest player in NHL history to win the Art Ross, which was introduced in the 1947-48 season.

Though circumstances allowed St. Louis to overtake Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who missed the final month of the regular season with a broken jaw, that hardly will be a footnote when it comes to how the season ended and there will be no asterisk next to his name when it enters the record book.

“When the hope of getting in (the playoffs) goes away, you try to finish strong and play the right way, then a couple of things happen along the way. Obviously, Sidney getting hurt. Then you find yourself in a situation that you can do something cool,” St. Louis said. “It's something that nobody can take away from me. It's in the books.”

Gordie Howe was the previous oldest player to capture the Art Ross, finishing the 1962-63 season on top with 86 points at the age of 34.

“It's incredible what he's been doing, and he's been doing it his whole career,'' Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said of St. Louis. “Age is just a number, it definitely hasn't slowed him down. He's a smart player, makes all the right decisions, his speed is just as it was when he was 22, and 37 is just a number for him for sure.''

Steven Stamkos picked up an assist to finish second in the league in scoring with 57 points, giving Tampa Bay the top two scorers in the league. It marked just the 11th time in the post-expansion era the top two scorers came from the same team.

But in a dubious distinction, it marked the first time that occurred on a team that failed to make the playoffs.

“I would trade (the scoring lead) for a chance to play in the playoffs every day,” St. Louis said.

St. Louis all but engraved his name on the Art Ross Trophy with an assist on Tampa Bay's first goal, picking up a puck that wheeled around the boards and feeding a pass to Matt Carle at the left point. Carle found a shooting lane and delivered a shot that grazed a pair of Florida skates on the way into the net 5:00 into the game.

Ryan Malone gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead 13:14 into the game, but the Panthers answered that with the first career goal by Nick Bjugstad with 3:06 left in the first and on a Thomas Fleischmann goal 54 seconds into the second period.

St. Louis picked up his second point of the night as Stamkos found Teddy Purcell on a cross-ice pass for a quick shot that was stopped. But the puck dropped at the far post, where St. Louis collected the rebound and found the open side of the net at 5:47 of the second period for his 17th goal of the season and final point on the night.

“I'm really proud to be a part of history,'' new Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “What a feat. … It's amazing. You look at him and you think he is 27 and not 37.''

Though Florida rallied with three goals in the third to ensure Tampa Bay finished the season in 28th place in the league standings, seeing St. Louis capture a trophy is something those around him were glad to be part of.

“It's awesome. You could see everybody was pulling for him and wanting to win it,'' center Nate Thompson said. “It's a really, really cool story. The guy is a non-stop engine that keeps going.''

[email protected] (813) 259-7835 Twitter: erlendssonTBO

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