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Stamkos' hat trick leads Lightning past Leafs 5-3

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

TORONTO (AP) — Steven Stamkos had a happy homecoming in a game that included a frightening injury.

Stamkos had a natural hat trick and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Toronto 5-3 Wednesday night after Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger was taken to the hospital.

Ranger left the ice on a stretcher after his head hit the boards following a first-period hit from Alex Killorn. Ranger was "stable, conscious and alert," according to the Maple Leafs, after being taken to the hospital for what the team called a "precautionary assessment."

Toronto announced the update on Ranger's condition on its Twitter account during the second intermission.

James Reimer gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, and the Maple Leafs lost their third straight.

Stamkos, playing his seventh game since missing four months with a broken right leg, called getting the natural hat trick in front of family and friends the highlight of his season.

"I was a little disappointed there was no hats on the ice," said Stamkos, a native of Markham, Ontario. "I guess I'll take it anyway."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was impressed.

"There's special players out there that find a way. They have that innate ability to rise to the occasion," he said. "For Stammer to come back in here to his hometown and do what he did tonight, basically put the team on his shoulders, I can't say enough about (him)."

With 4.1 seconds left in the first period, Killorn boarded Ranger, who went down to the ice and remained there for roughly seven minutes before medical personnel put him on a stretcher and wheeled him off. Ranger moved his legs but not much else after the hit.

Ranger's teammates huddled around as attention was administered, and several Lightning players remained on the ice and watched from afar.

Killorn was given a 5-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. The final 4.1 seconds of the period were postponed until after the ice was resurfaced.

Ranger, who used to play for the Lightning, appeared to turn his head before the hit to see Killorn coming. When Killorn finished his check, Ranger's head struck the glass hard.

The hit immediately led to a scrum in the corner to Reimer's right. That quickly gave way to trainers helping Ranger.

"We say our job's to get ready and prepare for the next period, but that's scary," Maple Leafs wing Joffrey Lupul said. "He obviously didn't look great when he was leaving the ice. So you're trying to clear your head and focus on the next period. But you can't lie — obviously part of you is wondering what's going on with him."

Ranger, who was dressed for the 48th game this season, has four goals and eight assists. The 29-year-old defenseman returned to the NHL this season after leaving his last team, the Lightning, early in the 2009-10 season.

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