Lightning's Steven Stamkos scores 500th NHL goal against Canucks

VANCOUVER — Steven Stamkos scored his 500th regular-season NHL goal on Wednesday — and then just kept scoring.

The Lightning captain included the major milestone in a hat trick as Tampa Bay downed the Canucks 5-2 in Vancouver.

"That's a game that you're gonna remember for forever, so to do that and have that story to tell for years to come was pretty special," Stamkos said.

The 32-year-old centre took a slick pass from Alex Killorn and put a backdoor tap in past Vancouver Canucks goalie Spencer Martin to open the scoring 4:40 into the first period on Wednesday.

Players poured out of the Lightning bench and mobbed Stamkos in the corner as the crowd cheered.

“It's such a humbling experience when you have a moment like that and you get to celebrate it with your teammates, who are genuinely just as excited as you are. I'm so thankful for them," Stamkos said. "Obviously this is an individual statistic, but it takes so many different players along the way that have helped me get to that."

A plethora of hats floated to the ice when Stamkos scored his third goal of the night — and 21st of the season — into the empty net with 1:22 left on the game clock.

After the game, he spoke in the locker room and thanked his teammates for their help and support.

That was the moment that made Tampa coach Jon Cooper the most proud.

"I've just watched that kid grow into a man, a phenomenal leader, and to be honest, he's a generational goal scorer," Cooper said. "That's what he is and those guys don't come around that often. Enjoy him while you can and I've been extremely fortunate to enjoy him put that puck in the net hundreds of times. And it's good for him, well deserved."

Stamkos is the 47th player in NHL history and the third active skater to score 500 goals, following Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

Selected first overall by the Lightning in the 2008 draft, he has played all 15 seasons of his NHL career for Tampa Bay and amassed 1,024 points (502 goals, 522 assists) over 965 regular-season appearances.

The Markham, Ont., native won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the club in 2020 and 2021, and took the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer in 2010 and 2012.

“He’s first class, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, for sure. He scores goals," said Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn, who played two seasons with Stamkos in Tampa.

"He’s a pretty underrated playmaker, too. I think everyone looks out for his goal-scoring ability but he's always over a point a game. And continually he gets better with age. He’s been a great player there for a long time and a great leader. So heck of a career. He's a good buddy of mine and I’m happy for him.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2023.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press