Bolts’ Johnson scores a hat trick in victory

by Gary Shelton on October 17, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

One: Johnson celebrates his first goal with Mathieu Joseph./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The first goal was a gimmie putt. Tyler Johnson took a perfect pass from young Mathieu Joseph and simply steered it into the net. Of the 110 goals Johnson had scored before that one, most of them were

Two: Johnson looked like his old self./JEFFREY S. KING

more difficult.

The third goal was a layup. That goal, the one that put the hats on the ice, was an empty netter. Johnson had made a tougher play diving to try to block the puck a few seconds earlier. Nothing for the memories, either.

But it was the second goal, the slashing, take-it-to-the-net attack that gave you hope. It was that goal that made you think that maybe, just maybe, Johnson could be the all-star he once was. It was that goal that made you see the possibilities.

Johnson lit up the night Tuesday, scoring his fifth career hat trick to lift the Bolts to a hard-fought victory, 4-2, over the Carolina Panthers.

Three: Johnson scores an empty-netter at the end./JEFFREY S. KING

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Domingue kept his eyes on the puck all the time./JEFFREY S. KING

Is Johnson capable of scoring the way he once did? In 2013-14, when he was 23, he scored 24 goals. A year later, he scored 29. But Johnson hasn't had that touch since them. He has scored 14, 19 and 21 goals the last three years.

"I don’t really think too much about hat tricks," Johnson said. "I’m more happy that we won that game. I was probably more pumped

Stamkos checks a Hurricane hard into the boards./JEFFREY S. KING

that Gourdo scored that third (goal)  than anything. I’ve been playing with some good players and had some good opportunities tonight and luckily it went in for me.”

Johnson has enjoyed being reunited with the Triplets (Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat).

“They’re unbelievable players," Johnson said. "I love playing with them. It kind of just makes the game easier, it kind of slows it down, we get some opportunities. I think as everything progresses, we’re going to get a little bit closer and closer and be able to work

Nikita Kucherov had an assist for Bolts./JEFFREY S. KING

and kind of progress on a few things I think we can be better. Hopefully we can just continue to work on things and work on video and just be on the same page here.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper likes seeing Johnson play center.

“We like him in the middle," Cooper said. "That’s helped him. But if there’s one thing about Johnny and the competitiveness and all that, that’s taken for granted. He competes. But it’s his skating. And when he’s skating, really it’s game changing for him. And he was definitely skating tonight, just bursting through holes, creating chances for himself. I know he had three, he probably could have

Miller had an assist on Johnson's second goal./JEFFREY S. KING

had more just from the chances he was creating. His linemates were obviously helping him out, but boy that kid was flying tonight.”

Johnson played well for most of the night, recording six shots. As Cooper said, "he could have had more."

Johnson wasn't the only Bolt who played well. Backup goaltender Louis Domingue had 38 saves in his first start of the season. And Yanni Gourde scored the tie-breaking goal in the third period.

Domingue played well despite hurting his neck in pregame while playing basketball (the teams generally loosen up playing other sports in the hallways). He said after the game he was still having trouble turning his neck. "Fortunately," he said, "I only had to turn twice."

Joseph moves into the open ice./JEFFREY S. KING

For the Bolts, it had to be good to see Domingue play well. Last year, starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy played so much he was weary by the end of the season.

“It felt great," Domingue said. "I had a little tweak in my neck from playing basketball before the game, so I was a little stressed out about that. But we have great staff here that fixed it right up. It was fun. It was fun to play in front of the fans and obviously to win is the cherry on the sundae.”

Domingue thought that Johnson's first goal was a bitg one.

Cooper has his penalty-kill working well./JEFFREY S. KING

“To get back to the room 1-1 is huge for us, especially on the PK, something we struggled with last year and we clearly made the right adjustments," Domingue said. "But there’s always room for better and obviously in this league, teams are going to adjust to what you’re going to do so we’ve got to keep getting better and working on that. I think the time we’ve put in at practice on special teams paid off tonight.”

The Hurricanes tied the game at 2, but Gourde knocked in the winner.

"(Palat) made a very good pass to me," Gourde said. "I tried to get it off as quick as I could, but it hopped over my stick and went and finally I got the puck back and shot right away. I think it squeezed through his arm.

“Louis was amazing tonight. The way he plays the puck to help our defensemen make plays. He made a huge save on our penalty kill. That was very important for us. We know they were going to shoot a lot of pucks tonight, and they did that. But Louis was there and standing up. It was a very good game for him.”

The Lightning close out their season-opening homestand by hosting  Detroit on Thursday at Amalie Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Gourde scores the go-ahead goal in the third period./JEFFREY S. KING







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