TORONTO — Steven Stamkos wasted little time Tuesday night reintroducing himself to his home town.
The Tampa Bay star, on his first shift of the game, beat Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen 79 seconds in on the Lightning's first shot. He added a second goal with 2:48 remaining in the period.
He finished with two goals and two assists in a comfortable 7-3 Tampa win although the Leafs mounted a brief rally after trailing 5-1. The Stamkos line had a 10-point night and was a combined plus-12.
Stamlos was on the ice for five of Tampa's goals and none of Toronto's.
The Lightning centre, whom Toronto fans hoped might be wearing a Leafs uniform this season, acknowledged he had heard some early boos but said he is happy to focus on helping his team win with his hockey future no longer a question-mark.
"This whole year has a different vibe to it, with all the stuff that went on last year ... It's just coming to the rink and knowing what was your job is."
The Tampa captain announced his presence early by driving defenceman Connor Carrick into the boards. That drew some boos from the Air Canada Centre crowd.
Then, as the Leafs tried to clear the puck, defenceman Andrej Sustr swept the puck back into the Toronto end from the blue line. It went past two Leafs to Stamkos, who found himself alone on Andersen.
The Lightning captain deked the Dane for Tampa's first first-period goal of the season. Defenceman Matt Hunwick unwittingly helped knock the puck past Andersen as he made contact with Stamkos' stick from behind.
After an Alex Killorn goal, Stamkos made it 3-0 on another Sustr assist after some good recycling by linemates Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Sustr, from the side boards, found Stamkos alone and the Tampa star, from outside the top of the right face-off circle, hammered a high shot that rang off the bar into the goal past a screened Andersen for his fifth goal of the season.
In the second period, Stamkos tried to set up Victor Hedman with a nifty behind the back pass but Andersen made the save. Second later, Stamkos did get an assist when he sent the puck towards the goal. Namestnikov's shot was saved but Hedman tucked the rebound in for a 4-0 lead on Tampa's 11th shot.
The Stamkos line struck again at 6:45 of the third when Kucherov scored after Stamkos flew behind the net and sent the puck back in front. Namestnikov added a power-play goal at 15:10.
The 26-year-old Stamkos, who is making $9.5 million this season, now has five goals and four assists in six games.
The Stamkos line was named the three stars with Stamkos getting cheers as he skated out for the third star.
"I think he did a good job of kind of answering the bell," said goalie Ben Bishop.
Stamkos, a native of Markham, Ont., signed a US$68-million, eight-year deal in June — on the eve of free agency — to stay in Tampa.
The Maple Leafs reportedly enlisted Mayor John Tory and the CEO of Canadian Tire in their unsuccessful bid to recruit Stamkos.
While it was Stamkos' first visit to the ACC this season with the Lightning, he had played there for Team Canada during the World Cup in September.
Tuesday marked the second stop on a six-game Tampa road trip. Ten of the Lightning's next 14 games are away from home.