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Burns: 3 things we learned from seven in a row

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Monday night’s 2-1 victory in Toronto won’t win any style points for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It will, however, get the Lightning two points.

And at this time of the season, those are the only points that matter.

The Lightning bolted out to a two-goal lead thanks to a pair of markers from Tyler Johnson and held on down the stretch behind a solid, 31-save performance from backup goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay has won all three games on its current road trip and can sweep the four-game roadie with a win Thursday night in Ottawa.

“Three games, four nights, all on the road, to get three wins out of there, I think we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Johnson said.

For the second time this season, the Lightning have won seven games in a row.

They’re arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Things are pretty good right now in Lightning land.

1. NO MOVE MONDAY

The National Hockey League’s trade deadline came and went Monday, and while teams around them in the Eastern Conference like Florida, Washington and the New York Rangers all made deals to gear up for a Stanley Cup run, the Tampa Bay Lightning stood pat.

And that’s perfectly fine with this group of Bolts.

“I think you ask anyone in this locker room, we’re very confident in the group that we have,” Johnson said. “It’s basically the same team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final last year and got so close. We have another year of experience and all the guys working well together. We’re a family. We’ve been working hard and everything’s coming together at the right moment. I think we’re happy with what we’ve got. I think management’s happy obviously by not pulling the trigger on anything, but we’re confident in our group, we’re confident in our family and we’re going to take it as far as we can.”

Lightning management and coaches felt no need to pursue a high-priced rental, especially considering the way the Bolts have played of late, going 18-6-0 since the start of 2016. And with moves in the league few and far between on Monday, the buyers market didn’t lend itself to the Lightning, who had a couple good trade pieces to dangle, getting enough in return to part with its assets.

“We got two wins away from the greatest prize on Earth,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “We’re comfortable with each other. There’s no reason to blow this up. We’ve got a great group of guys, and they know the standard how we want to play and we’ve had some success. I know (Lightning GM) Steve (Yzerman) was looking if there was a piece we could have added to us or to help us out. That’s why he’s the reigning GM of the year because he’s good at doing stuff like that, but when there’s not something out there, you just don’t make a trade to make a trade.”

2. JOHNNY BE GOOD

Late in Sunday’s win at Boston, Lightning center Tyler Johnson took a puck to the face that broke his visor, opening a gash above his left eye that splattered blood all over the TD Garden ice.

The image didn’t look good.

Medical personnel from both teams rushed onto the ice to attend to Johnson. A river of blood flowed out when Johnson removed his helmet. He was rushed back to the training room, and at the time, there was concern it could be a serious problem.

Less than 24 hours later, with 11 or 12 fresh stitches above his eye (Victor Hedman did the counting), Tyler Johnson was back on the ice in Toronto, providing the Lightning with both goals in their 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs.

“It shows a lot of character coming back from that puck to the eye yesterday, and he gets rewarded from the hockey gods,” Stamkos said.

Johnson said he had no doubt he would be able to play in Toronto.

“I probably could have just played last night too [in Boston] if we had more time,” Johnson said, providing another example of just how tough hockey players are. “It wasn’t bad. It looked a lot worse than what it was.”

Johnson’s had a rough year after scoring 29 goals in 2014-15 and being selected for his first NHL All-Star Game. He’s been injured on three separate occasions and struggled to find his form from a year ago.

But with points in four of his last five games, perhaps Johnson is finally starting to regain the consistency that was a hallmark of his game last season.

Monday’s two-goal performance was certainly a bright spot for the beleaguered forward.

“He’s been a little snake bit this year, but it’s good to see him come back and well-deserved on the two goals he scored,” Cooper said.

3. YOUR FIRST-PLACE BOLTS

Ok, so technically, the Florida Panthers remain in first place in the Atlantic Division because they own the tiebreaker over the Lightning having played one less game. And there’s a good chance by the end of Tuesday, the Panthers will be back ahead on points following their game at Central Division cellar dweller Winnipeg.

But, for 24 hours or so, let’s enjoy seeing Tampa Bay at the top of the Atlantic standings.

The Lightning find themselves leading the division for the first time since opening the season on a three-game winning streak.

“It’s something we talked about: win this game and we’ve got a chance at first place,” Stamkos said. “When you go on a streak like we have, it puts you back in a position, and we’re proud of that and hopefully we can continue that.”

Florida has cooled somewhat since the 12-game win streak from mid-December to early January that allowed it to take control of the division, going 9-7-4 since.

The Lightning, meanwhile, have enjoyed separate seven game win streaks to climb back to the top after a mediocre start to the season.

“You’re constantly looking at the standings, especially with how close everything is, but at the same time, you can’t worry about (first place) too much,” Johnson said. “You have to focus on your own game. You’re not going to catch them unless you get your two points. We look at one game at a time here, and we just have confidence that if we play our game, do what we need to do, we’ll be alright, whether it’s first, second, third or wild card.”

Despite reaching the top of the standings, there’s still work to do. Only nine points separate the Lightning from Philadelphia (69 points), which occupies ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings and is battling to get into the playoffs along with New Jersey (67), Carolina (66) and the Bolts’ next opponent Ottawa (66).

“There are 19 games left,” Cooper said. “I look and Philadelphia (won Monday). I look at all these Eastern teams, they keep winning. We have to keep winning…Even last year when we had 50 wins or whatever, we didn’t clinch until the last five games of the year or something like that. It’s just going to go right to the end like it does every year, and we’ve got to worry about ourselves and not what everybody else is doing.”

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