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Tyler Johnson scores game-winning goal after suffering pregame injury

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA -- When Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper heard that center Tyler Johnson had been hit in the mouth by a puck during warmups before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday at Amalie Arena, it would have been understandable if he thought, "Here we go again."

The Lightning were already missing captain Steven Stamkos because of a blood clot and No. 1 goaltender Ben Bishop because of a left leg injury; defenseman Anton Stralman recently returned from a fractured left fibula. Adding Johnson to their list of injured top players would have been par for the course for the Lightning.

Fortunately, Johnson was able to play after getting some repairs to his mouth and alterations to his helmet. He ended up scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in a 4-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins that evened the best-of-7 series 2-2. Game 5 is at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"When somebody came in and told me what had happened, it was almost one of those that I should just expect this to happen," Cooper said. "But now the talk is someone should shoot one in [Johnson's] mouth in warmups now in Game 5. I thought he had a [heck] of a game, so he should probably keep the cage on in warmups."

Johnson was not yet back from the locker room when the Lightning took the lead on Ryan Callahan's deflection goal 27 seconds into the game. Johnson made his way to the bench soon after that, wearing a full cage on his helmet for protection and sporting two fat lips.

Johnson also apparently lost some teeth and was said to be unable to speak to the media following the game.

Johnson appeared to be upset with his ability to see through the cage when he returned to the bench after failing to score on a partial breakaway 5:05 into the game, so he switched to a full visor later in the first period. He was limited to 15:33 of ice time but finished with four shots on goal and scored the goal that made it 4-0 with 2:12 left in the second period by knocking in a centering feed from Nikita Kucherov.

"He's one of our best players, and he's a warrior," left wing Ondrej Palat said. "He got the puck in the face and came back and scored a big goal, the winning goal. So he's a huge part of the team."

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