BOSTON — The Boston Bruins won the hockey game and the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their best player Monday.
The Bruins’ 3-0 victory, their third win in as many tries against Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay this season, was overshadowed by a serious injury to Lightning center Steven Stamkos, one of the league’s best players. Stamkos was wheeled off on a stretcher after breaking his right tibia and taken to Mass. General Hospital.
The Lightning confirmed post-game media reports that Stamkos had suffered the broken tibia. TSN reported Stamkos would require surgery but the team would not confirm that. General manager Steve Yzerman did say Stamkos would be spending the night in the hospital as the team heads to Montreal for Tuesday night’s game.
“It’s obviously tough to see him go down; not only for our team … he’s one of the best players in the world,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after losing Stamkos and two defensemen in the club’s first injuries of the season. “People come to cheer the Boston Bruins here but they also come to see guys like Steven Stamkos play hockey,
“It’s a loss for everybody. “
Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots for his second shutout of the season — both against Tampa Bay — and center Patrice Bergeron (sixth goal) and left wing Daniel Paille (second goal) scored 20 seconds apart, not long after Stamkos was injured.
The Bruins won their third straight and ended Tampa Bay’s four-game winning streak.
After the game, the talk was of Stamkos.
“Obviously, he’s a big part of our team,” said right wing Martin St. Louis.
Said Cooper: “It’s tough to lose a guy like that, but we’ll see what we’re made of.”
Stamkos was backchecking on Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton when he went down and slammed into what is supposed to be a movable post. The net dislodged, but too late to help Stamkos. Cooper, asked if he thought Hamilton had done anything to cause the injury, said, “I won’t comment on that.”
Said Hamilton: “I was just trying to drive the net. He was too fast for me, so he caught me. He fell and hit the post pretty hard. Sad to see it.”
Soon after Stamkos left, Lightning defenseman Sami Salo went off with an ankle injury. In the third period, defenseman Keith Aulie left with an upper body injury.
“I’m blaming this one on (Bruins coach) Claude Julien, actually,” Cooper said with a laugh. “I read his quote and he said ‘they’ve been injury free.’ I’m obviously being facetious … but he’s absolutely right; we went 16 games without anybody getting hurt and the snowball went down the hill today. It was a little tiny guy and it ended a mountain when it got to the bottom of the hill.”
The Lightning, 12-2 against the rest of the NHL, have scored one goal in three games against Rask this season. They are averaging 3.79 goals per game in the 14 games not against the Bruins. They also have one goal on 84 shots in the three games against Rask, who has a .988 save percentage in the three games.
Stamkos, who came in with six-game goal and eight-game points streaks, was injured with 7:11 on the second-period clock. He crashed into the post with his lower leg, knocking the net off. He then struggled to his skates and quickly crumbled, punching the ice several times in obvious pain.
The game was halted for five minutes as the training staff tried to hold the leg in place. A gurney was brought out, and Stamkos received a big ovation from the crowd, with members of both teams smacking their sticks against the boards in support.
One broadcaster said he could read Stamkos’ lips, saying the word “broken.” Stamkos had his hands covering his face as he was wheeled off.
He has 14 goals and nine assists for the season (tied with Sidney Crosby for first in the league in scoring) and had nine goals and four assists during his points streak.
The Stamkos injury took life out of the visitors. The Bruins took advantage as Bergeron scored his third goal in two games, and Paille ended a 10-game goal-scoring drought with a nifty drive down the left side before scoring on Anders Lindback.
Lindback played well but fell to 0-4 lifetime against the Bruins.
Right wing Jarome Iginla (fourth goal) hit the empty net in the final minute.
“I think each game over the last three has been a little bit better for us as a group,” said Iginla, whose team has come out of a 1-3-1 slump for the winning streak.
The Bruins, who moved up to No. 2 in the conference, killed four more power plays and have 22 straight kills over the last six games.