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Johnson powers Lightning past Rangers in Game 2

by Brian Compton /

NEW YORK -- Tyler Johnson had a hat trick, his fourth multigoal game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to help the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the New York Rangers 6-2 in Game 2 and even the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Johnson, who scored shorthanded, on a power play and at even strength, has 11 goals this postseason. Alex Killorn scored twice and had an assist, Steven Stamkos had one goal and one assist, and Ben Bishop made 35 saves for the Lightning.

It was the first playoff hat trick by a Lightning player.

"We definitely didn't want to go to Tampa down 2-0," Johnson said. "That's always a tough thing to get back, especially against a great team like New York. But I think what we were mainly focused on is the fact that we worked so hard to get into this position here and we didn't want to just squander it away.

"We felt like we didn't play very well in Game 1 (a 2-1 loss Saturday) and we definitely needed more. I thought the team responded very well tonight and I thought we played a great game."

Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, who are 2-10 in Game 2 since 2012 and 1-7 after winning the series opener.

Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves and allowed six goals in a playoff game for the first time since his debut on April 22, 2006.

The Rangers played 15 straight one-goal games in the playoffs dating to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Game 3 of the best-of-7 series is at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"You just have to wipe it clean. It's one game," Lundqvist said. "It's a tied series. We're going down to Tampa. There were a lot of good things tonight, we played with good speed, but a lot comes down to making good decisions with the puck on the blue lines. You could see when we lost the puck how fast they came back at us, and they don't need much. They have a couple guys that can definitely find the net."

New York had a two-man advantage for 1:07 early in the first period. Lightning forward Brian Boyle, who missed Game 1 because of an undisclosed injury, was penalized for holding at 3:38 before defenseman Jason Garrison was given a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass at 4:31.

But it was the Lightning who scored shorthanded at 5:38. Just as Boyle's penalty was set to expire, Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle tried to feed Martin St. Louis, but Johnson seized control of the puck at his blue line and skated in on a breakaway. His shot was denied by Lundqvist, but Johnson's second attempt went over the goal line before the net was knocked off its moorings. It was ruled a good goal after a brief video review.

"Without a doubt, [Johnson] took his game to another level tonight," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We need our top guys to do the same thing."

New York tied it 1-1 on their third power play at 8:50 of the first period. With Lightning forward Brenden Morrow in the box for high sticking, Bishop denied St. Louis' redirection of Dan Boyle's shot from the point. Kreider was in front of the net, where he quickly scored his sixth goal of the playoffs.

Johnson scored his second of the game, this time on a power play, at 11:15 of the first. Skating 4-on-3 (and the Lightning using four forwards), Johnson took a pass from Stamkos and beat Lundqvist from the left circle to make it 2-1.

Johnson completed the hat trick at 8:17 of the second period. At even strength, Ondrej Palat's wrist shot from the left circle hit the goal post and landed in the crease, where Johnson was able to poke it over the line during a scramble. Replays determined that the puck was not kicked in by Nikita Kucherov (three assists), but rather swatted in by Johnson's stick for a 3-1 lead.

The line of Johnson, Palat and Kucherov has scored 21 of Tampa Bay's 41 goals this postseason.

"You walk into that kid's house and you look at the trophy mantle and all you see is trophies of where this kid has won," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Johnson. "Memorial Cup, Calder Cup, World Juniors … winning follows that kid. You're a special player for that to happen.

"Tyler Johnson is not the only one this happens to, but to do it in the greatest league in the world on the biggest stage, in the world's most famous arena, it's pretty impressive. It doesn't get any bigger than that. I don't know, I can't say enough. He's one of 20 guys that takes the ice for us every night, but he is team first, will first. It's incredible to watch. Never lets you down."

Stepan got the Rangers within 3-2 when he scored a power-play goal at 14:17 of the second period. After Cedric Paquette was called for interference, Stepan collected Dan Boyle's rebound and put a shot from behind the left side of the net that went off Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn and over the goal line to make it 3-2. Stepan has scored in three straight games.

Bishop kept the Lightning in front two minutes into the third period when he denied Rick Nash and Jesper Fast back-to-back with pad saves while the Rangers were shorthanded.

"Obviously they score there, you don't know how the game turns out," Bishop said. "Sometimes you've got to make the timely save and I think that was one of them."

Killorn gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead at 3:09 with his fourth goal of the playoffs. Shortly after a penalty against Stepan expired, Victor Hedman faked a shot and made a cross-ice feed to Killorn, who beat Lundqvist from the right circle.

"We were pretty upset with our effort [in Game 1]," Killorn said. "Regardless, they score a goal that went off of a guys' skate with two minutes left. We talk about how bad we played and stuff, I think we were still in that game. But tonight we played to win. I think last game we were kind of, 'OK, it's Game 1, we're going to play hard,' but today we played to win."

Stamkos gave the Lightning a 5-2 lead when he redirected Coburn's shot past Lundqvist for a power-play goal at 6:28 of the third. Killorn scored his second of the game when he put a rebound past Lundqvist during a power play with 2:02 remaining to make it 6-2.

"I don't think you can expect [six goals] every night. The Rangers are a great team," Johnson said. "We had some lucky bounces that went our way. It's nice that we got the bounces. We got rewarded for playing a good game. We've just got to keep playing the way that we played tonight. We don't expect to get those bounces every single night, so it might be different [in Game 3]."

Tampa Bay was 3-for-6 on the power play. The Lightning have scored 11 power-play goals in their past 26 opportunities.

"It's embarrassing," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "There are a lot of things you want to say right now, but talking doesn't do much. Our guys better figure it out quickly here and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team. They have too much skill. [We were] shooting ourselves in the foot from the very first few minutes … [that] is not going to give us a chance to win."

Linesman Brad Kovachik left the game with 7:41 remaining in the second period when he sprained his knee during a collision with Stamkos and Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein along the boards. Kovachik was replaced by Greg Devorski. The game was delayed about five minutes.


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