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Johnson's 3rd-period goals lead Lightning past Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Tyler Johnson scored two third-period goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist, Ondrej Palat had two assists, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves for Tampa Bay (33-15-5), which led 2-0 in the first period on goals by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.

Dallas (23-20-8) tied it 2-2 in the second period on goals by defensemen John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski.

Johnson's game-winner was a deflection of a wrist shot by Brian Boyle from the left point with 3:37 remaining, a goal that traveled through the five-hole of Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

"It hit me in the blade. I just tipped it. It went five-hole," Johnson said. "I knew that one went in. I was pretty pumped. I think [Boyle] thought he got it though."

Kucherov scored into an empty net with 1:17 remaining.

"Obviously not acceptable to have a 2-0 lead like that slip, have a 3-2 lead, let that slip," Stamkos said. "I think we got away with one tonight, but we have character in this room and found a way to win on the road in the third and [we're] definitely proud of that."

Stamkos scored his 28th of the season 3:11 into the first period. He tapped in a wobbling puck after a shot from the point by Mark Barberio deflected off the stick of Dallas' Patrick Eaves.

Tampa Bay went ahead 2-0 at 6:42 of the first period when Hedman beat Lehtonen far post with a slap shot from the high slot. Lehtonen set up like the shot was coming to his glove side but allowed Hedman's sixth of the season into the left side of the net.

Cody Eakin blocked Hedman's initial shot, but the puck deflected back to his skates and he capitalized.

"Kari wasn't good enough for us tonight," Ruff said of Lehtonen. "He's got to be better for us. That power-play goal for me is a goal that he misread. It should have been a save."

Dallas scored twice within 15 seconds late in the second period. Klingberg scored his 10th of the season at 15:21 on a snap shot from the edge of the right circle that beat Vasilevskiy high on his blocker side.

Goligoski tied it with his second of the season when he tapped in a pass from Vernon Fiddler off the rush at 15:36. It was Goligoski's first goal since Nov. 28 against the Minnesota Wild, 27 games ago.

"We fought our way back into it. I think we settled in," Stars left wing Erik Cole said. "The first 10 minutes, we were definitely on our heels there, and it was a tough bounce on the first goal. They gained the momentum and it drew us back a little bit, but I thought the guys did a nice job of hanging tough. We got some big goals in the second. The third period was just a little back and forth and unfortunately we ended up on the wrong end."

The Lightning regained the lead with 7:33 remaining when Johnson scored a power-play goal on a shot that sailed under Lehtonen's glove. Kucherov got the primary assist with a cross-ice pass from the left side.

"When we got that power-play goal, you could see our guys were really fired up," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That was another challenge today we threw on ourselves, was we got to score a power-play goal. When it comes right down to it, that was a big difference for us."

Dallas scored 1:14 later when Trevor Daley rang a wrist shot off the far post from the right circle.

"For us to be able to get the lead again, I think that shows a lot of character of the guys," Johnson said. "We definitely couldn't have done that without [Vasilevskiy]. He held us in there in the second period and played huge for us. That kid deserves First Star for sure."

Vasilevskiy was making his first start since being recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League after the Lightning waived Evgeni Nabokov on Sunday.

"Well, what you can you say about that kid? Your goalie's got to give you a chance to win the game," Cooper said. "He can't go out there and score goals for you, but he can keep them out. When Dallas was buzzing, he was the calm in the storm. He gave us a chance to be tied going into the third. If we don't have him, we don't win that game."

Tampa Bay was down to five healthy defensemen after Jason Garrison left the game with a lower-body injury early in the third period.

"I don't (know if it's a day-to-day thing or what)," Cooper said.

Dallas finished a two-game homestand 0-1-1.

"I thought we worked as hard as we could work, battled as hard as we could battle," Ruff said. "They had the only two opportunities in the first period, went in the net. We had eight or nine. They've got a real good team that we took a lot of time, a lot of ice. We're frustrated. Too many went in."

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