Skip to main content
playoffs

Reunited 'Triplets' can't rally Lightning in Game 3

Kucherov-Johnson-Palat line scores twice, but Cooper won't commit to keeping trio together

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat during the third period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. But it was too little, too late.

Johnson and Palat had goals, but the Penguins scored four times in the final 20:10 and earned a 4-2 win at Amalie Arena, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Game 4 is Friday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m., TV: NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), and Cooper wasn't ready to say that he would keep the trio together.

"They have played so well together for so long," Cooper said. "But [Alex] Killorn played really well as well. Through the playoffs we've made adjustments and changed things up, and going into the third we thought that was something that would help us and they got both our goals."

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm3: Johnson trims deficit on drop feed

Cooper has been searching for secondary scoring for much of the playoffs. The line of Johnson, Kucherov and Alex Killorn scored 10 of Tampa Bay's 12 goals in the Lightning's first-round win against the Detroit Red Wings. The Triplets were reunited in the second round against the New York Islanders, and the scoring was more spread out.

"We need more production than just the same guys each night," Cooper said. "When we're doing well we get production from everybody. You just can't rely on the same bunch of guys the whole time. Those guys will be together again, sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. But they did a good job for us [Wednesday] in the third."

Kucherov had assists on each goal for his first two points of the series after scoring nine goals in the first two rounds. On Johnson's goal, Kucherov aggressively carried the puck into the zone and was able to get Pittsburgh defenders Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin tied up with him, allowing Johnson a free path to the net.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm3: Palat blisters one-timer past Murray

"I think we felt pretty good that we were able to get a goal there," Johnson said. "Unfortunately they were able to get the momentum back. But it's always good to find a way to score and Kucherov made a great play."

Center Valtteri Filppula, who has been a line with Jonathan Drouin and Killorn for the most part, said it was good to see the Triplets line get on the scoresheet. However, like Cooper, he believes the whole team has to improve.

"We have to create more chances and keep possession of the puck longer," Filppula said. "Those guys have been great for us all season and in the playoffs but at this stage everyone has to contribute more and create opportunities to score on each line."

Video: Cooper on tonight's Game 3 loss

View More