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Johnson's goal gives Lightning 3-0 lead vs. Canadiens

by Arpon Basu /

TAMPA -- Tyler Johnson scored with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

It was Johnson's League-high eighth goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it was set up by Victor Hedman, who has more points than any Eastern Conference defenseman with six.

It was the eighth consecutive win by the Lightning against the Canadiens this season and gave them a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

The Lightning can advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2011 with a win in Game 4 here on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

With time running down and the Lightning buzzing in the Canadiens zone, Johnson went to the net, took a pass from Hedman and put the puck past Montreal goaltender Carey Price.

The time on the scoreboard read 0:00 while the Lightning celebrated, but a video review determined the puck went in with 1.1 seconds remaining.

"I literally had no idea it was that close," Johnson said. "I knew when I jumped on the ice this would probably be the last shift of the period, but I didn't realize when I was standing in front it was that close. It's pretty cool."

Johnson never would have had the opportunity to win the game for the Lightning were it not for goalie Ben Bishop at the other end of the ice.

Bishop continued his stellar play, withstanding a push from the Canadiens over the final two periods. After making 30 saves, he has allowed four goals on 135 shots in his past four games, a save percentage of .970, a run that began as soon as the Lightning faced elimination against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the first round.

"We were confident [in him] in here the whole time," Lightning center Steven Stamkos said of his goaltender. "I know there were some questions from the media and from other people about this being his first [Stanley Cup Playoff]. But he's such a competitive guy. He wants to play against the best, he wants to beat the best. When you have that attitude it's almost contagious around the room."

Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, on his 23rd birthday, tied the game at 10:03 of the third period when he slid a rebound behind Bishop while Brian Boyle was falling on him. Gallagher's goal came on Montreal's 27th shot while the Lightning had 12, seemingly content up until that point to sit on their 1-0 lead.

"I don't think we were composed enough, I don't think we played our system enough, but they did play a great game," Johnson said. "We've just got to match that intensity and match that desperation."

The Lightning put seven shots on Price over the final 9:57 after generating 12 in the first 50:03. With a little more than a minute remaining, Stamkos jumped on the ice and his line had a dominant shift in the Canadiens zone. Johnson's line followed, and another magical moment for the undrafted center ensued.

"I saw us win 50 games playing just like that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Alex Killorn opened the scoring at 12:00 of the first period when he completed a nifty give-and-go play with Stamkos to get in on Price and beat him to the glove side.

The Canadiens began to pressure the Lightning from the second period onward, controlling long segments of play and hitting the goal post or the crossbar three times.

"We played a hell of a game, had a lot of chances, put so many pucks at the net, hit some posts again," Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec said. "It's a bad way to lose."

Montreal coach Michel Therrien refused to find fault with his players after the game and would not discuss who made a mistake on the winning goal. Instead, he wanted to focus on the effort put forth in a desperate situation, one that only becomes more so Thursday.

"The only thing we can ask of them is to keep competing," Therrien said. "We have no time to feel sorry for ourselves."

They don't have time to with fewer than 24 hours before Game 4, with the Canadiens fighting for their lives and the Lightning aiming to pay back their sweep at the hands of the Canadiens in last season's playoffs.

"We understand that we've shown much better than we showed tonight," Cooper said. "But in saying that, we did win the game. If we can hang our hat on something, we're up 3-0 and we have a chance to close out in our building. If you would have told me that when the series started, that you can play Game 4 [Thursday] and you can close them out, I think our guys would be pretty fired up about that."

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