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Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists in his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, and the defending Stanley Cup champions opened the season with 5-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

 

Stamkos underwent surgery in early March that kept him out of all but one game in the playoffs before undergoing surgery again in October to repair the same core muscle. Wednesday's game was the first full game Stamkos played since Feb. 22.

 

Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat and Mathieu Joseph also scored to help Tampa Bay win its seventh consecutive season opener. Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn each finished with two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 23 saves.

 

Dylan Strome scored for Chicago, and Malcolm Subban stopped 28 shots.

 

Tampa Bay raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period on Palat's rebound goal on the power play, Joseph's redirect that bounced in off Subban, and Cirelli's deflection of Erik Cernak's shot.

 

Stamkos made it 4-0 with a power play goal in the second, one-timing a shot from the left circle where he's scored so many goals during his career.

 

Point one-timed Stamkos' pass from the slot in the third that made it 5-0 before Strome broke the shutout bid with a power-play goal that bounced in off the skate of Vasilevskiy with 3:24 remaining.

 

Chicago played without captain Jonathan Toews, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness.

 

The Blackhawks stay in Tampa to take on the Lightning again on Friday.

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