Johnson’s hat trick leads Lightning victory

by Gary Shelton on January 10, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Johnson twists in the air in his efforts to score./CARMEN MANDATO

Johnson twists in the air in his efforts to score./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Johnson has been superb since Dec. 1./CARMEN MANDATO

Johnson has been superb since Dec. 1./CARMEN MANDATO

On the first one, he was a swordsman. He feinted. He parried. He stood in the heavy traffic in front of the goal, and he deflected the puck into the net. It was an impressive bit of hand-eye coordination.

On the second, he was a trapeze artist. He flew. He twisted. Somehow, he got enough on the puck to direct it past the goaltender. It was a fine show of athleticism and determination. He was still ticked that his first shot had been stopped when he kept battling and scored.

On the last one, he was a track sprinter. He raced. He passed. He spotted Carolina's Noah Hanifin a head start, then passed him, ducked down and lifted the puck past goaltender Cam Ward. He managed to get his stick on the puck and, impossibly, guided into the net.

Johnson congratulations by Stamkos after his hat trick./CARMEN MANDATO

Johnson is congratulated by Stamkos after his hat trick./CARMEN MANDATO

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Vasileveskiy is 16-1-1 at home this season./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasileveskiy is 16-1-1 at home this season./CARMEN MANDATO

And there you have it. Three reason that Tyler Johnson, professional sparkplug, still matters to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After all the wear and tear, Johnson may not score the way he once did, but he showed Tuesday night that he can still make a difference.

Johnson had a hat trick against the Carolina Panthers, the fourth of his career but the first since December of 2014, to lead the Lightning to a 5-4 victory. It was a highlight-reel performance.

Hedman scored his sixth goal of the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Hedman scored his sixth goal of the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Since Dec. 2, Johnson has 12 goals in 17 games.

“He earned that one," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "What a remarkable goal that third one too. That’s a mano a mano and he won the battle. Then to have the wherewithal to tuck that puck in and get it by the goalie. He was exceptional tonight, obviously a big reason why we won.”

Johnson has 16 goals on the season. He had 19 all of last season, and 14 the year before.

Johnson said he "got lucky" on his second goal of the night.

"We made that switch (to the wing), made the switch with lines and found some

Callahan is hit from behind in the Panthers' game./CARMEN MANDATO

Callahan is hit from behind in the Panthers' game./CARMEN MANDATO

chemistry with Point and Palat, things kind of just took off there getting the confidence, getting everything going," Johnson said. "It’s really fun playing with those guys. We’re having a blast out there. Hopefully we can just continue to do that, keep building, keep getting better and just improve every day."

Also scoring for the Lightning were Victor Hedman and Jake Dotchin, who led a five-point night for the defense. The Bolts have 107 points from their defense this season.

Kunitz is pinned to the boards./CARMEN MANDATO

Kunitz is pinned to the boards./CARMEN MANDATO

"It’s nice to contribute when we can and obviously that second wave of us coming up the forwards were able to find us tonight and credit to them for that," Dotchin said. "Obviously, us getting our shots through and on net we got rewarded with it. When we can contribute it’s nice for sure.”

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 32 shots for his 27th win of the season. He is 16-1-1 at home. But after giving up his fourth goal, Vasilevskiy was irked.

“I sense a goaltender that is proud in the net, works his tail off, his commitment to this team and will to win," Cooper said. "What he’s really been good at is turning the page and he turns the page, but he wants to win.”

The Bolts are home Thursday night against Calgary. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Cooper yells to Lightning players./CARMEN MANDATO

Cooper yells to Lightning players./CARMEN MANDATO

 

 

 

 

 

 

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