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Lightning's Johnson: 'Triplets' must step up in Game 2

by Corey Masisak

TAMPA -- Tyler Johnson leads the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in goals with 12 and points with 21, but he has gone 16 days without a goal.

Johnson's last goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning came in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. He has three assists in the past five games, but for someone who is a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy it is an unexpected dry spell.

"It's always nice to get goals. It's always nice to contribute that way, but there's a lot more to the game than scoring goals," Johnson said Saturday, hours before Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). "We were still winning games, those games I haven't scored. So as long as we're winning it doesn't matter.

"I want to be better. I want to play better and be the best I can, but there are a lot more aspects I want to work on my game than scoring goals."

The Lightning did not win Game 1 of this best-of-7 series against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Johnson's line, which along with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov has been so effective and popular in this part of Florida that is has earned two nicknames ("That Line" and "The Triplets"), was not much of a factor.

Johnson, Palat and Kucherov combined for two shots on goal and six shot attempts against the Blackhawks. Johnson had the best shot attempt percentage (SAT%) at even strength of the three at 33 percent, while the other two were in the mid-20s.

"As the playoffs go on, it gets harder to score," Johnson said. "But our line, right now, we're playing just average. We're not doing as well as we should. We know that. So it's time for us to step up."

The Lightning have been carried offensively by the top two lines, a potential problem that was magnified when Chicago's third line scored the two goals in a 2-1 victory in Game 1.

Chicago's fourth line also spent a lot of time on the ice against Johnson, Palat and Kucherov. The Blackhawks' trio of Marcus Kruger between Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins did a great job of keeping the electric trio away from the offensive end and limiting their chances when they did get there.

"That's a good line. They've been one of the best lines in the playoffs," Kruger said. "It is three really fast guys that can skate and make plays.

"We watch a lot of film going into a series and study the other team. Obviously we were watching the other series during the playoffs a lot too. We’ve seen them a lot, but it is up to us playing hard and trying to hold onto the puck. That makes it tough for them to score and create chances."

Kruger's line drawing a tough defensive assignment like that from Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is not an atypical thing. Chicago's fourth line played a lot against the Anaheim Ducks' top trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon during the Western Conference Final.

"I try not to focus on [who we are matched up with]," Kruger said. "We know our roles here and no matter who we play, we are going to try and play the same way. We will try to play hard and play the right way. We know we have that role in our team and we’re going to do it the best we can."

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