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New line for Lightning flourishes in Game 1

Killorn, Johnson, Kucherov combine for three goals against Red Wings

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- With the injuries to the Tampa Bay Lightning, it's given coach Jon Cooper plenty of opportunities to experiment with different lines to find scoring chemistry.

And it seems like he's found an early match with Tyler Johnson centering a line with Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov on the wings. The trio combined for each of the three goals in the Lightning's 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

Game 2 will be at Amalie Arena on Friday (TV: 7 p.m., CBNC, CBC, FS-D, FS-F, TVA Sports).

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said they will have to focus more on closing the space the line has to work with.

"We've got to keep them from getting rush opportunities," Blashill said. "The first goal was a rush and they do a great job of finding open ice and making plays in small spaces. We have to take away the time and space from them."

Video: DET@TBL, Gm1: Killorn's midair goal puts Bolts ahead

The game-winning goal from Killorn came 8:52 in the third period off a deflection after Johnson sent the puck to the net from outside the slot.

Killorn has proven to be difference maker when he can get in front of the net. He had nine goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year doing most of his damage on rebounds and deflections. Defenseman Victor Hedman said he was "the master of deflections."

"It was a nice one he had [Wednesday]," Hedman said. "Not as nice as the one he had against Chicago last year but close. He's such a talented player and that whole line was great."

Johnson, who was questionable going into Game 1 with an upper-body injury, had two assists and said it didn't take long for him to forget about any lingering injury issues once the puck dropped."

"Playing with [Kucherov] and [Killorn] helps a lot," Johnson said. "They make the game easy. And it's the playoffs so you are pretty amped up and ready to do anything to help the team win."

Video: DET@TBL, Gm1: Kucherov's goals spark Lightning

Blashill said even more important than stopping any of the Lightning's lines is finding ways to score the winning goal. Detroit scored twice in the second period Wednesday but slowed down considerably in the third until the game's final minutes when goalie Jimmy Howard was pulled for an extra attacker.

"It's vital for us to score more goals than the other team," Blashill said. "We're looking for the extra goal and it doesn't matter who it's from."

Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist is willing to shoulder some of the blame for the team's failure to score. In the past 12 Stanley Cup playoff games, Nyquist has just one goal and one assist with the goal coming in Game 4 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round series against the Lightning.

"Just got to find a way to score more goals," Nyquist said. "I've put pucks on the net, just not enough have [went] in and I have to do better. All I can do it try to keep creating chances and hopefully one will go in."

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