In the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, Steven Stamkos became the 47th NHL player to score 500 goals. Not only did Stamkos hit that major career milestone, but he added some extra flair by scoring a hat trick.
Entering Wednesday night, Stamkos was sitting on 499 career goals. Less than five minutes into the game, Lightning forward Alex Killorn toe-dragged around a defender and found Stamkos all alone in front of the net for No. 500.
Stamkos was not content to celebrate that achievement and sit back the rest of the game. Later in the first period, Stamkos took another gorgeous feed from Killorn and deposited it into the back of the net for his second of the night.
The Lightning captain capped off his memorable night by scoring an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick, which put him in some elite company in NHL history.
Stamkos is just the eighth player in league history to score his 500th career goal and record a hat trick in the same game. The others were Jean Beliveau, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, and Mats Sundin.
Stamkos also joins Alex Ovechkin (810) and Sidney Crosby (538) as the only active players in the 500-goal club.
In his postgame press conference, Stamkos said it was a special moment for him, and he joked that his teammates can go back to playing the game normally instead of looking to pass whenever there’s a scoring chance.
“It’s very special,” Stamkos said. “I’ve had quite a few chances in the last couple games. It was nice to get it out of the way early in the game. I was joking with the guys too. I know guys have been looking for me in situations where maybe they would have shot it in the past two games. It was nice to do it and go out and play. Obviously, to do it in a win is huge.”
Stamkos also took the time to thank the fans in Vancouver for the warm reception they gave him.
“The thing that’s going to stick out is the goal, but also the reception that I got from the crowd,” Stamkos said. “That’s something, as a player, that sticks with you for a long long time when you’re on the road and get that type of reception. Just want to say to the fans that were here tonight, ‘Thank you, and I appreciate that.’ Very classy move.”
Stamkos, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Lightning, has reached 500 career goals despite missing significant time to injuries throughout his career. In the 2013-14 season, Stamkos suffered a broken tibia that forced him to miss 45 games. In the 2016-17 season, he was limited to just 17 games due to a torn meniscus. It’s easy to imagine what Stamkos’ numbers might look like with better injury luck.
Now 32-years-old, Stamkos is still playing some of the best hockey of his career. After Tuesday night’s explosion of offense, he is now up to 21 goals and 52 points in 43 games played. It’s conceivable that Stamkos could finish with 100 points for the second year in a row as he continues to climb the NHL’s record books.