The Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night with hopes of taking home the championship for the second time in franchise history but they’ll be doing it without the help of their captain.
Head coach Jon Cooper told reporters on Sunday that Steven Stamkos would not return for the rest of the series after making a brief appearance in Game 3.
“Hopefully the next time we see him on the ice is for a trophy presentation,” Cooper said. “He did everything he could to get back. And he did get back, and unfortunately, he couldn’t go any further. I’m sure this will all be addressed after the series is over. He gamed it out.”
Stamkos got back in the rink for the first time since Feb. 25. Despite only skating five shifts for less than three minutes, Stamkos scored less than seven minutes into the game putting the Lightning 2-0 ahead of Dallas.
“To be honest, I didn’t think he was playing at all in these playoffs,” Cooper said. “I don’t think any of us did. So, he gave us 2:47 of brilliant hockey that’s a phenomenal story, scored a huge goal for us in a win and hopefully we can keep that momentum.”
It’s not clear what benched Stamkos but he told reporters after Game 3: “I’ll be glad to share with you guys after the season.”
The Lightning are just one game away from claiming the Stanley Cup. Dallas is prepared to force a Game 7 but it won’t come easy.
“We just battle,” Corey Perry, whose goal in double overtime on Saturday kept the Stars alive, said.
“It doesn’t matter. We believe in that dressing room. We came here with 51 people, and all of those guys in that dressing room believe that we could go out and get this done. That’s all that really matters.”