Lightning clinch Presidents’ Trophy with win over Coyotes

Steven Stamkos became Tampa Bay’s all-time leading goal scorer and the Lightning clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning earned one trophy on Monday night. Starting next month, they’ll be one of the favourites in the chase for the Stanley Cup.

The Lightning clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the top regular-season mark in the league with a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Lightning, who have 56 wins and 116 points, will try to become the ninth Presidents’ Trophy winner to win the Cup. The Presidents’ Trophy was first awarded by the NHL in 1985-86.

“Trophies are hard to win, they truly are,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And when you win one you should be damn proud of it. I know there are a lot of teams that have not won that trophy and I think it’s something you should embrace.”

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored his 36th goal of the season and 384th of his career to become the Lightning franchise leader in goals, passing former Tampa Bay captain Vinny Lecavalier.

“I’m very honoured and humbled to be a part of history like that,” said Stamkos, who reached the record in 737 games. “Definitely happy it happened in a win and in a game like that where so many special things that happened.”

Victor Hedman scored his 10th goal of the season while Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde added empty-net short-handed goals in the final minute.

Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 28 saves for his 36th victory of the season, tied for the league lead.

Clayton Keller scored his 14th of the season and Darcy Kuemper stopped 20 shots for Arizona, which remains one point ahead of Minnesota for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

“You’re playing a number one and I thought we handled ourselves really well,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “Guys played hard. They stuck to the system, inch here and there, couple of missed nets here and there and (the Lightning) get one to start the period. You’re hoping it was one of those games that’s an overtime game. I thought it was.”

Keller opened the scoring 5:03 into the game, taking a drop pass from Christian Dvorak for a one-timer past Vasilevskiy. Stamkos tied the score 1:51 later, tipping Ryan McDonagh’s shot.

Hedman put Tampa Bay in front for good 44 seconds into the third period while Cirelli notched his fifth short-handed goal of the season, tied for the league lead, with a shot from his own end with 44.8 seconds left. Gourde finished it off with 8.6 seconds left.

“It’s probably one of the best games we have played in the season so it’s kind of sour to walk away with no points to be honest with you,” Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.

“I can’t forget that we’re playing against one of the best teams in the league and we matched them really, really good tonight.”

NOTES: Lightning D Dan Girardi (lower body) and D Anton Stralman (lower body) each missed their fifth consecutive game. … Tampa Bay recalled D Cameron Gaunce from Syracuse of the American Hockey League. … Arizona RW Clayton Keller has four goals in four games against Tampa Bay. … Vasilevskiy leads the league with 20 victories since Jan. 1, Kuemper is second with 19. … Gourde became the fifth Lightning player to reach the 20-goal mark this season and has reached it in consecutive seasons.


Lightning: At Washington Capitals on Wednesday

Coyotes: At Florida Panthers on Thursday


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