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Scoring depth producing goals in historic numbers for Lightning

All four lines have contributed to the Bolts' offensive success so far this season

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

In Tampa Bay's 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens at AMALIE Arena Saturday afternoon, Tyler Johnson lined up a one-timer from the left circle on a first period power play and rocketed a shot past Montreal goalie Antti Niemi to level the score 1-1.

The goal was No. 246 on the season for the Lightning, tied for the second most in a single season in franchise history.

It was also the 20th marker of the season for Johnson, who became the sixth Tampa Bay skater to reach the 20-goal milestone in 2017-18, joining Nikita Kucherov (34), Steven Stamkos (27), Brayden Point (27), Yanni Gourde (24) and Vladislav Namestnikov (20), who was traded to the New York Rangers four days after scoring his 20th of the season for the Lightning in Ottawa.

The Lightning are the only NHL team with six 20-goal scorers. And this 2017-18 squad is one of three Tampa Bay teams all-time with six 20-goal scorers along with the 2003-04 and 2005-06 teams.

"I think we have four solid lines that can really score. That's huge," Johnson said following Monday's practice session at AMALIE Arena when asked what it says about the team to have so many 20-goal scorers. "Especially come playoff time, you need that depth. We're having guys go up and down lineups just because we can play with everybody. We don't necessarily have the first or fourth line, set roles, that kind of thing. It's more about just playing. It's a great thing in our organization that we have that, and I think it speaks volumes how far our organization's come."

Video: MTL@TBL: Johnson rips a one-timer for PPG

Other teams can't key on one or two lines for the Lightning because all four lines can score. If opponents want to take Stamkos and Kucherov away from the Bolts, Point and Gourde can reap the rewards on the second line. And beyond the 20-goal scorers, newly-acquired forward J.T. Miller has scored 15 goals this season, including two in six games with the Lightning. Recently-recalled center Anthony Cirelli netted two goals in his first five NHL games. Alex Killorn has 13 tallies on the season and has scored some timely goals. Even a fourth liner like Chris Kunitz has put up 12 goals, his 12th season scoring 10 or more goals in the NHL.

"I think a lot of teams want to watch our top line, so I think that's part of why we're having so much success because it opens up opportunities for the second and third lines to get the matchups we want," Point said. "And (the top line is) still able to produce with the top matchups. It definitely helps."

In 2015-16, the Lightning learned first-hand how multiple scoring lines can provide a matchup nightmare for the opposition. In the Eastern Conference Final versus Pittsburgh, the Penguins relied heavily on their third line of Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel - the HBK Line - to provide the buulk of the scoring punch after teams were able to limit the top two lines featuring superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins were able to ride the HBK Line all the way to a Stanley Cup championship.

Tampa Bay is hoping a similar scenario can play out for the Lightning this season.

Video: Johnson | Post-Practice

"If you're trying to match lines or what not, it might be pretty hard for other teams (to shut down all four Lightning lines)," Johnson said. "It's great for us that we can kind of just roll and do what we need to do. I think we'll definitely see the advantages of that later."

Tampa Bay's scoring depth has resulted in some pretty eye-popping offensive numbers this season. The Lightning have scored 247 total goals this season, the second most in franchise history and just 15 goals away with 13 games left to play from matching the record of 262 goals set in 2014-15. The Bolts are just two road goals from tying the franchise record for road goals (128) from 2006-07. And they only need 18 home goals with eight games at AMALIE Arena left to play to reach that record too (139 home goals in 2014-15).

The Lightning lead the NHL this season for total goals, 18 more than second-place Vegas. And at 3.58 goals per game currently, the Bolts could become one of just six teams since the 1996-97 season to average 3.6 goals per game if they increase their scoring pace by just the tiniest of margins.

This Tampa Bay team has the chance to go down as the most prolific offensively in franchise history.

"I think the biggest thing is if one line's not going, it's not the end of the world," Point said. "We have other guys that can step up."

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