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Steven Stamkos seeks goal No. 500 as Lightning visit Blackhawks

Dec 28, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA;Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) is congratulated by center Steven Stamkos (91) and right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he scored a goal against the Montreal Canadiens  during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Merriment and milestones have been scarce for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

Entering Tuesday’s visit from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago possesses the fewest points and lowest winning percentage in the NHL.

Still, if it’s any consolation, the United Center crowd may witness a watershed moment for an opponent for the second time in three weeks.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos stands two goals shy of becoming the 47th player in league history to net 500. On Dec. 13, the Chicago faithful witnessed Washington star Alex Ovechkin tally a hat trick to reach 800 career goals, just the third player to do so.

Stamkos’ power-play goal midway through the second period broke a tie and helped spark Tampa Bay to a 5-3 home victory against Arizona on Saturday. It stopped a stretch of six straight games without a goal for Stamkos, a period the veteran feels isn’t quite a drought.

“I guess it’s a good thing when you guys are calling (six) games a slump,” Stamkos smiled. “That’s something that you just learn to deal with as your career progresses. It’s about wins in this league and doing whatever it takes to help your team win.

“Obviously nice to get on the score sheet and help the team win.”

Brayden Point scored for the eighth straight home game while Victor Hedman (three assists) and Nikita Kucherov (two) helped the attack flow.

Tampa Bay swept a three-game homestand as the team prepares for a stretch of 13 of its next 20 games on the road.

“That was huge for us to get three wins out of three games after the (Christmas) holiday. … Now we go back on the road for three,” Hedman said. “That’s going to be big for us.”

Chicago is coming off Sunday’s 5-2 loss to San Jose in the opener of a seven-game homestand.

Second-period goals from Patrick Kane and Sam Lafferty boosted the Blackhawks to a 2-0 advantage with 6:30 remaining in the middle frame, but the lead didn’t last.

The defeat was the fourth in a row for Chicago and 12th in the club’s past 13 games.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” Kane said. “Obviously, we’ve been losing a lot of games, and it wears on a lot of guys. Guys get frustrated. It’s understandable. At the same time, when we’re in positions like we are tonight, we got to find a way to not give up so much so easy. It’s obviously been a problem all year for us. I think we had the right attitude. Guys want to win. Guys are staying positive.”

Chicago has scored first in three of the last five games, with Kane netting three goals in the same span.

That urgency didn’t pay dividends against the Sharks, who scored three goals over a 3:22 stretch in the second period to seize control.

“Especially tonight, I think we had a new outlook on things after the last year, and it being a new year and trying to start off the way we wanted to,” Kane said. “It looked like it was going right there for a while, and then it wasn’t.”

–Field Level Media