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As Steven Stamkos eyes 500th goal, Lightning hit road to face Blues

Jan 12, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) congratulates center Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks in the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos will gun for his 500th career goal when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the St. Louis Blues Saturday.

Stamkos notched No. 499 while pumping seven shots on goal in a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home Thursday.

“I’m trying, shoot the puck and things are going to happen,” Stamkos said. “I had some good looks tonight. I just don’t want guys to feel obligated to force the puck; that’s human nature. That’s something you do when guys are close to milestones like that.”

Of course, fans in Tampa were urging him to shoot at every opportunity to get No. 500.

“That was cool,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, it would have been nice to do it at home and in front of the crowd, but we’ll see what happens on this road trip. But again, it’s something that’s not something that’s keeping me up at night. It’s like I’ve been preaching the whole time, when it’s time to happen, it’s going to happen.”

Stamkos, 32, has 520 assists and 1,019 points in his career. His 499 goals ranks 47th all-time, one behind Lanny McDonald.

“He’s been in the league 15 years, so 15 years of anticipation of getting a 500th goal,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “So it’s a pretty exciting time. But I’m sure it can be a little stressful, too. Because you want to get it over with, but eventually it will come.

“When he gets it done, we’ll reflect back and be like, ‘Wow, that’s a heck of a lot of goals.’ But hopefully it will come soon.”

This game will be the third game of a seven-game homestand for the Blues. They split two games with Calgary, winning 4-3 in overtime and losing 4-1 to start this stretch.

Blues coach Craig Berube believed his team failed to sustain enough offensive zone time in those games against Calgary.

“The last couple games for sure, I don’t feel like we cycled the puck well enough,” Berube said after Thursday’s loss. “We still scored enough goals in the first game. Not tonight obviously.

“We need more guys that are willing to play that style of game.”

Since the Blues are playing catch-up in the Western Conference playoff race, letting the Flames leave town with three points was not ideal. After Thursday night’s game, Calgary held the first wild-card slot and the Blues were out the bracket, four points back of the Flames.

“If you look at the standings — where we are, where they are, that was a big game standings-wise,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “It’s over. It sucks. Regroup (for) a big game Saturday.”

The Lightning won the previous game between these teams this season, 5-2 on Nov. 25. Brayden Point had two goals and an assist in that game while Nikita Kucherov had three assists.

Tampa Bay has won six of its last eight games. The Lightning scored 11 goals in home-ice victories over Columbus and Vancouver after scoring just three goals in their previous two.

This game in St. Louis is the opener of the Lightning’s five-game road trip to Western Conference cities.

–Field Level Media