Tampa Bay Lightning step up with big win in first game without captain Steven Stamkos

ByScott Burnside ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What do you need to know about last night's big stories? Scott Burnside gives us his take on the biggest and best.

Lightning will be fine: Game 1 of life without Steven Stamkos (version 3) started pretty much as I expected it would, as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat up on the hapless Buffalo Sabres 4-1 Thursday for their third straight win. The Lightning have over the past few years been forced to play for long periods of time without their captain and offensive dynamo, and they have done so for the most with aplomb. Now they're faced with a four-month absence after Stamkos underwent surgery Thursday to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. If there is a team capable of absorbing this kind of body blow, it's the Lightning. I'm not going to go all hyperbolic and call this a statement game, but on a night when you'd expect your veterans to step up, Nikita Kucherov scored his ninth andAlex Killorn, who had been scoreless in 10 games, delivered a goal and an assist as the Lightning served notice they won't be feeling sorry for themselves in the absence of their captain.

Blues bounce back: It's been a weird November for the St. Louis Blues, who had lost five of eight games heading into their first meeting of the season with Western Conference-champion San Jose Sharks Thursday night. Three times the Blues have allowed at least five goals -- very un-Ken Hitchcock like. But in the first rematch of last spring's Western Conference finalists, the Blues got back to Blues hockey, clipping the Sharks 3-2. Jaden Schwartz, so key to a Blues team looking for a new generation of leaders, chipped in two goals to give him five in six games after a slow start and Jake Allen, who's had his ups and downs in November, was at times spectacular, turning aside 29 of 31 shots. The Blues, meanwhile, continue to dominate at home, running their record to 7-1-2. The loss, the second in a row, drops the Sharks, who were the kings of the road last season, to a pedestrian 5-6 away from the Shark Tank.

Oilers' slide continues: I'm going to take some responsibility for the Edmonton Oilers' plunge off the proverbial cliff. It was a little more than a week ago I saw them in Pittsburgh, and even though they fell 4-3, there was a sense of optimism that this was a team on the rise. Uhm. No. The Oilers are proving that kind of renaissance doesn't happen overnight -- or in their case, over a decade -- as they've now lost five straight and seven of nine after Thursday's 4-2 loss at home to the undermanned Los Angeles Kings. Connor McDavid hasn't scored in 10 games and was minus-3, and the Oil have been outscored 18-9 during the losing skid. Amazingly, the team still holds onto a playoff spot thanks to its strong start but sadly the past seems very much like the future for the Oilers.

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