Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) shoots to score his second goal of the game against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) during the first period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final during the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs

Johnson leads Bolts to electric win

Under the bright lights in the big city, the Tampa Bay Lightning got a gigantic performance from their smallest player. Tyler Johnson continued his stellar Stanley Cup playoffs with a hat trick in Game 2 Monday night as the Lightning routed the New York Rangers 6-2 to even the Eastern Conference final at a game apiece.

NEW YORK — Under the bright lights in the big city, the Tampa Bay Lightning got a gigantic performance from their smallest player.

Tyler Johnson continued his stellar Stanley Cup playoffs with a hat trick in Game 2 Monday night as the Lightning routed the New York Rangers 6-2 to even the Eastern Conference final at a game apiece.

The five-foot-eight dynamo scored short-handed, on the power play and at even strength for the first hat trick in franchise history. Johnson improved his playoff-leading goal total to 11 and became the first player in the NHL with four multi-goal playoff games in the same season since Jamie Langenbrunner in 2003.

“Oh, Tyler Johnson, the bigger the game, the better he plays,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “In the greatest league in the world on the biggest stage, in the world’s most famous arena, it’s pretty impressive. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

Johnson scored Tampa Bay’s first three goals in the convincing victory, followed by two from Alex Killorn and one by Steven Stamkos. In a game that lacked flow thanks to 13 minor penalties and just 46 minutes of five-on-five play, Johnson was the catalyst in sending the Lightning home happy for Game 3 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.

“It seems like he was leading the way tonight and we were kind of following,” said Killorn, who finished with three points. “When you have a guy that can turn it up a notch like that, it’s huge.”

Johnson’s game-winner was his fourth of the playoffs, and the Lightning know they wouldn’t be into the third round without him and “Triplets” linemates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. Cooper made sure to credit Palat for his strong game getting the puck into the offensive zone and in spots to score.

But Game 2 was another showcase for Johnson, the undrafted 24-year-old who went through the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Chiefs and then to the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals without much fanfare.

Johnson was a Calder Trophy finalist last season as a rookie and broke out with 72 points this year. These playoffs have been a chance for fans around the NHL to appreciate his journey and his play.

“I think every morning I’m just happy to be here and I’m living my dream,” Johnson said.

“So that’s what’s driving me is to try to be the best I can and play for my family. They sacrificed so much for me to be here, and I’m living my dream, so I want to keep living it as long as possible.”

Johnson and the Lightning will keep living it now knowing they can hang with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers.

After a Game 1 performance that made Cooper “want to vomit,” his team responded to tie the series.

“The mind-set was a little different, for whatever reason,” Stamkos said. “We weren’t there mentally, physically, we didn’t compete. When this group competes, we talk about it all year, we have the skill and the speed to do anything if we’re willing to compete.”

The Rangers competed early on and tried to make a game of it with goals by Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. But Johnson busted the dam open on the way to Henrik Lundqvist’s first game allowing more than three goals against in these playoffs.

Just Posted

Nearly half of Canadians will be diagnosed with a form of cancer in their lifetimes.

Separate events raised funds for Alzheimer’s and cancer

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

VANCOUVER — A former Liberal environment minister is urging Prime Minister Justin… Continue reading

School bus driver charged with drunk driving

THE CANADIAN PRESS EDMONTON — Three impaired driving-related charges have been laid… Continue reading

To hit environment goals, feds should create ‘super’ tax credit, report says

OTTAWA — A government-struck expert panel is calling for new “super-deduction” tax… Continue reading

Canadians in Hong Kong worried for neighbours as protests roil former colony

As mass protests in Hong Kong grab headlines around the world, expatriate… Continue reading

Canadians in Hong Kong worried for neighbours as protests roil former colony

As mass protests in Hong Kong grab headlines around the world, expatriate… Continue reading

To hit environment goals, feds should create ‘super’ tax credit, report says

OTTAWA — A government-struck expert panel is calling for new “super-deduction” tax… Continue reading

Calgary’s Michael Klukas to live childhood ambition in Stampeders opener

CALGARY — The dream never died for Michael Klukas. Born and raised… Continue reading

Thompson sustains torn left ACL in Warriors’ Game 6 loss

OAKLAND, Calif. — Klay Thompson sustained a torn ACL in his left… Continue reading

Championship timeline: Reliving the Toronto Raptors’ road to the NBA title

The Toronto Raptors captured their first NBA championship in franchise history on… Continue reading

Top 20 Global Concert Tours from Pollstar

The Top 20 Global Concert Tours ranks artists by average box office… Continue reading

Swift calls out homophobes on new song, announces 7th album

NEW YORK — Taylor Swift’s latest song has a new target: homophobes.… Continue reading

Blue Jays hit 3 HRs, notch 17 hits in 12-3 rout of Orioles

Blue Jays 12, Orioles 3 BALTIMORE — Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homered to… Continue reading

Most Read