An emergency appendectomy on Monday wiped out any chance the gritty Tampa Bay forward had to play in Game 6 against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Instead, several of his Lightning teammates took care of business, posting a 4-1 victory and exacting revenge for their first-round exit last spring at the hands of Montreal.
Tampa Bay clearly showed it wanted nothing to do with playing an anything-can-happen Game 7 at what promised to be a raucous Bell Centre in Montreal, displaying a determination, urgency, perhaps desperation not seen in its game since the Lightning took a 3-0 lead in the Round 2 series.
Put simply, Tampa's best players — forwards Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and goalie Ben Bishop were their best players on this night. The defence tightened up as Montreal managed just 19 shots, its lowest total of the series.
Leading the way on Tuesday was Stamkos, who extended his points streak to five games (three goals, four assists). Snapping a 50-shift drought without a shot on goal late in the first period of Game 5, the Lightning captain came out flying in Game 6 and registered four shots before the midway point of the second period.
The 25-year-old displayed his explosiveness early and often, here whizzing by Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry and driving the net.
With Tampa leading 1-0, Stamkos took a pass in the slot from Alex Killorn and attempted to use Petry as a screen before unleashing a hard wrist shot over Canadiens goalie Carey Price's left shoulder at 5:12 of the second period for the eventual game-winning goal.
The goal gave Stamkos 16 on Price, his highest against any NHL netminder.
Kucherov, the Russian winger who scored 29 goals and 65 points in the regular season, scored twice in Game 2 of this series but managed only a single marker in the next three contests. Kucherov, though, busted out with two goals and an assist Tuesday, was double-shifted in the third period and finished the series with five goals. Below are clips of his first goal, a redirect past Price, first in real-time play and then slow motion.
Johnson, who didn't find the scoresheet in the final two games against Montreal, was plus-2 on Tuesday and shared the team lead in shots with Palat and Stamkos at four. He also won 53 per cent of his faceoffs.
Palat, skating alongside Kucherov and Johnson, made good use of his 17 minutes 36 seconds of ice time in Game 6. He scored, added an assist, had six hits, one takeaway and a blocked shot. Here's a look at his goal.
As for Bishop, he stopped 18 of 19 shots, a much better performance than Game 4 in Tampa Bay when coach Jon Cooper pulled him in the second period after the six-foot-seven goalie allowed three goals on 14 shots. One of his better saves on Tuesday included a right-pad save on Tomas Plekanec with Montreal on the power play early in the third period.
Later on, Bishop thwarted Dale Weise, who broke in alone but had his shot scooped up by Bishop.