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Tyler Johnson continues to deliver in postseason for Tampa Bay

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

In Tampa Bay Lightning postseason history, there might not be a more clutch player than Tyler Johnson.

Heck, one could argue there might not be a more clutch player in the NHL playoffs over the past couple seasons.

Consider: Johnson has more goals in the last two playoffs (17) than anybody else in the league. He also has more postseason points (33) in the 2015 and 2016 playoffs combined, edging teammate Nikita Kucherov (31) and Chicago’s Patrick Kane (30).

Johnny on the spot?

More like Johnny on the scoresheet.

Johnson averages a point a game in the postseason with 33 (17 goals, 16 assists) through 33 games.

“In the postseason, for whatever reason, he really elevates his game,” Tampa Bay center Brian Boyle said. “I think he probably puts a lot of pressure on himself and takes a lot of responsibility and knows he’s such an important player for us.

“And he’s delivered.”

Johnson was clutch as usual in Game 2 for the Lightning in their Second Round series vs. the New York Islanders, the Bolts staring at a potential 0-2 deficit after dropping the opening game of the series. The 25-year-old got Tampa Bay on the board with his redirect from the slot 6:03 into the game, provided the primary assist on the Bolts’ third goal – a power-play marker from Victor Hedman – and added an empty-netter with 2:18 remaining to seal the victory.

Johnson finished Saturday’s Game 2 with three points, his third multi-point game of the 2016 playoffs and 10th of his career.

His sixth career multi-goal playoff game ties Vincent Lecavalier for most in Lightning franchise history according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He has more game-winning playoff goals than any other NHL player over the last two seasons.

“Those do or die moments every single night are kind of the moments you dream about as a kid,” Johnson said when asked how he continues to rise to the occasion in the postseason. “That’s what you want to play for. It’s just a lot more fun.”

Johnson currently leads the Lightning for 2016 playoff scoring with 10 points and ranks tied for fourth in the league, this after an injury-plagued regular season saw him record 14 goals and 24 assists, well below his averages from the previous two seasons(26 goals, 35 assists).

“He’s battled some stuff this year with injuries and what not,” Boyle said. “He was still a huge player for us.”

Johnson has picked up this postseason where he left off in the last one, when he paced the league for goals (13) and tied with Kane for the NHL playoff scoring lead (23 points) in guiding the Lightning to their second-ever Stanley Cup Final.

This postseason, he’s scoring at an even higher rate with 10 points in just seven games so far.

“You’re really playing for that ultimate goal that you’ve worked so hard for,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of people just elevate their game in the playoffs, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with good linemates and the team’s been elevating and things have been clicking.”

Johnson has become even more important this postseason for the Lightning, who are without their leading scorer in Steven Stamkos (36 goals during 2015-16 regular season). Before the playoffs, the question on everyone’s mind was: How will the Lightning score without Stamkos?

The rest of the team has picked up the slack, but Johnson in particular has shouldered most of that burden. He’s the main reason Stamkos’ absence hasn’t been near as detrimental as once thought when it was announced in the next-to-last week of the regular season he would miss one to three months with a blood clot condition similar to what backup goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy experienced in training camp.

In fact, the Lightning offense hasn’t missed a beat. The Bolts averaged 2.73 goals per game in the regular season. Through seven playoff games, they’re netting 2.71 goals each outing.

Individually, Johnson drew even with Stamkos on Tampa Bay’s all-time playoff scoring leaders list after recording three points in Game 5.

Stamkos has 35 points in 48 career playoff games.

Johnson needed just 37 games to hit that mark.

“I don’t think I feel the need (to compensate for Stamkos’ absence),” Johnson said. “I think as a team we feel that collectively. Stammer’s a big part of our team. No one’s going to replace him, but you’ve just got to have every single person step up at the right time and fill that collectively.”

Johnson, the fourth-year pro, is certainly doing his part.

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