Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Don’t look now, but Alex Killorn is doing it again

NEWARK, N.J. — Alex Killorn is at it again, scoring big goals in big games for the Lightning.

This is what happens when the regular season turns into the playoffs. The intensity ratchets up a tick or two or 10. Perfect for a big body like Killorn.

"He just amps up his game," Victor Hedman said.

Killorn had two goals in Saturday's 5-3 win against the Devils in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series. He has three goals in the two games, both Lightning victories.

RELATED: Lightning catch breaks in Game 2 win

Killorn has 18 goals in 49 career playoff games. Four of them are winners.

Both his goals Saturday were on the power play. Killorn had two power-play goals in 82 games during the regular season.

So, what gives?

"I don't know," Killorn said. "I think playoffs is more of an emotional game. It's easier to get into the games. It's just a one-game mentality. You're not too worried about the series or the next (opponent), you're just worried about the next game. I think that mind-set helps me play my best hockey."

It helps that Killorn's 6-foot-1, 196-pound frame is built for playoff hockey, which is more physical than the regular season. There's a lot more banging in front of the net.

Killorn scored both his goals Saturday while stationed in front of Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid. The first came when he redirected a pass from Nikita Kucherov past Kinkaid to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. The second came off a scramble in traffic to extend the lead to 5-1.

Tyler Johnson is another of the Lightning's forwards who comes to life in the postseason. He had a goal and an assist in Game 1, and a goal in Game 2.

"Some guys are just good in big games," Brayden Point said. "Look at (Killorn's and Johnson's) past, and they have been very successful. Some guys can elevate their game in big games, and they are two of them."

Ondrej Palat is a member of that group as well, with a goal and three assists in the first two games.

Killorn etched himself into Lightning lore with his winning goal 1:54 into to the second period against the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference final. He beat Henrik Lundqvist with a backhander from about 18 feet out for the first goal in the Lightning's 2-0 win.

In the Lightning's next game that June, Game 1 of the Cup final against the Blackhawks, Killorn turned in the most memorable goal of his career. Posted up to the left of the net, he knocked the puck out of the air on a pass from Anton Stralman and bounced the puck past goalie Corey Crawford.

"He's a good player," coach Jon Cooper said when pressed about the reasons for Killorn's playoff success. "He's an NHL player. He's got size and skill. He's a power forward. He plays the right way, and that line — (Tony) Cirelli, (Yanni) Gourde, Killorn line — had done really well (Saturday).

"(Killorn) can finish in front of the net on the power play, and that's what he did (Saturday)."

Johnson talked after the Game 1 win about how much fun he has playing in the playoffs. Same goes for Killorn.

"You play all season for this. Playoff hockey is great," he said. "There's a few more cameras around and a few more people watching, but I think we like that pressure. We like having eyes on us."

Killorn's goals Saturday were not pretty. He said that himself. But they are what you need in tightly contested playoff games.

"A lot of times Kucherov or Stamkos is scoring on those shots, but when they don't, me and (J.T.) Miller try to be at the net and cause havoc," Killorn said. "On the two that I scored (Saturday), I was just in the right place, and Kucherov put it in a good spot for me."

The right place, the right spot for Killorn is the playoffs.

Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50

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