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Johnson scores another winner for Lightning

Tampa Bay center willing to pay price again in Game 5

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson has been to opposite ends of the spectrum in being hit with the puck over the past two games of the Eastern Conference Final.

After Johnson was hit in the mouth in warm-ups prior to Game 4 on Friday, perhaps it was fitting that one went in off his backside 53 seconds into overtime Sunday to give the Lightning a 4-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center.

It was the seventh career game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Johnson, tying him with Brad Richards, one back of Martin St. Louis for most in Lightning history.

"He's a winner," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's what winners do -- they don't back down. When there's a challenge ahead of you, you've got to find a way to meet that challenge. Tyler Johnson was that way before he came to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was extremely fortunate to watch him do what he's doing now in the American (Hockey) League, and Bill Peters got to see the same thing in Spokane [in junior]. There's a lot of coaches that had a front row seat … to see how this kid plays and how he competes, and it's not always the size of the player, it's the size of the heart, and that's Tyler Johnson."

Johnson missed the first shift of the Lightning's 4-3 victory in Game 4 while getting repairs from a puck that hit him in the mouth in warm-ups. He came back wearing a full cage on his helmet for extra protection for his stitched-up mouth and later changed to a full visor before scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in the second period.

Video: Johnson on scoring winner, Garrison on comeback win

Typically, Johnson described the damage as, "some stitches and some teeth."

After having some dental work Saturday, Johnson switched back to a half-visor for Game 5. He said he made that choice without hesitation.

"I didn't want to play with anything on my face," Johnson said. "So that was an easy thing for me. As soon as they let me make the decision, I made it."

But standing in front of the net can be dangerous. Johnson admitted getting struck in the mouth with the puck flashed through his mind while he stood in front and saw defenseman Jason Garrison preparing to shoot from the left circle in overtime.

So he turned away, and the puck went in off his rear end.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm5: Johnson gives Lightning the series lead

"I was just battling in front there and saw [Garrison] start to shoot it, and I thought he was going for my head again, so I turned around and got lucky," Johnson said. "It just kind of nicked me. I wasn't really sure if it hit me or not, but I was just more excited to be able to see it in the back of the net."

Thanks to Johnson, the Lightning head back to Amalie Arena to host Game 6 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series and need one win to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row.

Getting "some stitches and some teeth" seem like a small price to pay for that.

"It's one of those things, unfortunately, that happens," Johnson said. "Just got to keep playing. I'm glad we got the win. [We'll] get back to Tampa and hope we can finish up."

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