Kucherov, Johnson end goal droughts in Lightning win over Sharks

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TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper said if he were to circle the names of the forwards who continued to work hard during the team’s recent slump, he would draw one around Tyler Johnson.

The goals weren’t coming for Johnson, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Because of that, Cooper said, Johnson earned more ice time.

Saturday against the Sharks, effort plus ice time equaled results for Johnson, who snapped a career-high 15-game goal drought with a pair of goals in the Lightning’s 5-2 victory at Amalie Arena in front of an announced crowd of 19,022.

"It’s just a matter of time, and (Saturday) it was his time," Cooper said.

It was also time for Nikita Kucherov to break his six-game goal drought with two.

Kucherov, who leads the league with 38 points and is tied with the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 19, scored his first of the night 27 seconds into the second period to tie the score at 1.

RELATED: Kucherov scores twice in win over Sharks.

The next two Lightning goals came from Johnson, who last scored Oct. 24 at Carolina.

"I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough," Johnson said of his November to not remember. "You just have to keep going.

"The season is a long season. Sometimes things go our way. Sometimes they don’t. Every once in a while you get the break. You got to keep working hard and do what you do. You can’t really control that much. It was just one of those things that was bound to change, and it changed (Saturday)."

Johnson’s first goal came 1:39 into the third with the Lightning on a power play. Ondrej Palat intentionally shot the puck from the blue line off the end board to the left of the Sharks’ net. Johnson caught up to the puck as it bounced back and blasted it past Sharks goalie Martin Jones.

The Lightning has scored a power-play goal in its past six games and 12 of its past 13.

RELATED: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Saturday’s Lightning-Sharks game.

Johnson’s second goal, at 5:49 of the third, came when he batted in a puck that was cleared off the goal line by Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon.

"That’s how hockey goes," Johnson said. "Sometimes you get the chances and the bounces don’t go your way, and other times you kind of get those garbage goals that find a way to go in. Lucky for me I was able to find a way to break through.

"The last couple of games I had my chances, and it just didn’t go my way. It’s just a matter of time. I just have to keep going. Lucky (Saturday) was the night."

Johnson was moved up to the top line with Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov. He was also moved from center to wing.

The change of scenery helped a little, Johnson said.

"It was fun playing with them with the skill that they have," he said.

RELATED: Lightning’s slump a reminder season is a roller coaster.

The Lightning (18-6-2), which entered the night with four losses in its previous six games, leads the NHL with 38 points. Cooper said his team played better from start to finish against the Sharks than it had at any point during the 1-3 road trip that ended November.

The Lightning turned the puck over too many times on the road. As a result, it found itself constantly chasing the puck. It was a different story against the Sharks, one that looked an awful lot like the story the Lightning was writing before its slide.

"It was only a matter of time for us," Cooper said.

And for Johnson.

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First Period—1, San Jose, Goodrow 1 (O’Regan, Carpenter), 16:58. Penalties—None.

Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 18 (Point, Palat), 0:27. Penalties—Dillon, SJ, (interference), 7:58; Killorn, TB, (slashing), 9:01; Thornton, SJ, (high sticking), 19:56.

Third Period—3, Tampa Bay, Johnson 5 (Sergachev, Palat), 1:39 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Johnson 6, 5:49. 5, Tampa Bay, Conacher 2 (Killorn, Gourde), 11:01. 6, San Jose, Braun 1 (O’Regan), 13:37. 7, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 19, 15:37. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—San Jose 8-8-11—27. Tampa Bay 15-16-12—43. Power-play opportunities—San Jose 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—San Jose, Jones 10-5-1 (43 shots-38 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 16-4-1 (27-25). A—19,022 (19,092). T—2:33. Referees—Brad Meier, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Ryan Daisy, Greg Devorski.

                                               
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