WINNIPEG, Manitoba — For a game that meant little, save some jockeying for potential draft position between two non-playoff teams, there was a carnival atmosphere in Winnipeg on Saturday night.
And the main attraction was well worth the price of admission.
On the last day of the NHL season, Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos had a chance to become the first player in four seasons to score 60 goals in front of a boisterous crowd that wouldn't let a little thing like their team missing the playoffs get them down.
Stamkos didn't disappoint, ripping home a wrist shot from the slot off a pass from Marty St. Louis early in the third period to become the first player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to record 60 goals in a season.
Oh, and did we mention the Lightning also won, 4-3 in overtime, to finish the season with 84 points, same as the Jets? Tampa Bay wound up 10th in the Eastern Conference, which was obviously disappointing for a team that made it to the conference final last season.
But that disappointment was for another time. This night belonged to Stamkos — and Teddy Purcell, who scored three goals, including the winner in overtime.
"It's special," Stamkos said. "I don't think it's going to sink in until after the season. I was feeling the pressure. I was doing my best to not show it and trying not to get too discouraged. It's kind of surreal right now."
The goal prompted a big on-ice celebration by the Lightning — even goalie Dwayne Roloson wanted to get in on it — and Stamkos, who had been booed all season by the Jets fans, received a standing ovation.
"It was unbelievable. …I had goosebumps," said Stamkos, who received a shaving cream pie in the face from teammate Ryan Malone during postgame interviews. "They were booing me all game, and when it went in they obviously knew the magnitude of that goal and I have a lot of respect for all the fans here that made it all the more special."
Stamkos said it was fitting he was set up for the goal by linemate St. Louis.
"I couldn't have written a better script," Stamkos said. "He's the reason why I've had the success I've had in the first four years."
The reason the Lightning had success on this night was Purcell, who scored in the first period, added a second off a slick saucer pass from Vinny Lecavalier in the second and then buried one in overtime to give the visitors the win.
"He has been thriving this season," Stamkos said of Purcell, who finished the season with 24 goals. "He's established himself as a first-line player in this league. He just keeps showing the type of player he is."
Purcell's overtime goal helped the Lightning end the season on a positive note, even though they blew a 3-1 lead in the third period when Jets center Jim Slater scored a pair of goals.
Slater's second goal, with 53 seconds left, was strongly disputed by Roloson, whose stick was knocked out of his hands by the Jets forward moments before he scored. It could have been goaltender interference, but no penalty was called.
So, the game went to overtime.
With the crowd standing and roaring for the whole extra session, Roloson made a huge save off Dustin Byfuglien in the slot before Purcell buried a pass from defenseman Victor Hedman at 1:08.
"It's unfortunate for all of us in this room that our season ended today," Stamkos said. "But we'll end it on a positive note and try to build for next year."