TAMPA — It was a foot race for the puck. Tyler Johnson won and he rewarded himself with a goal, one that gave the Lightning a two-goal lead in the third period and one that gave the Lightning wing three goals for the night.
You know what came next. Cue the hats.
"I think it’s a cool tradition in our sport when something happens like that. It’s pretty sweet," Johnson said after the Lightning held on for a 5-4 victory Tuesday against the visiting Hurricanes.
The cool tradition is the fans tossing their hats — ball caps, actually — on the ice in homage to the player who just netted his third of the game.
It was Johnson’s third regular season hat trick of his career — he had one during the playoffs in 2015. It was just the first of the season for the Lightning’s powerhouse offense that leads the NHL in goals.
"He earned that one," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Johnson has at least one point in 17 of his last 20 games. The surge coincided with Johnson’s move from the two-man and a guest line with Alex Killorn to the more traditional three-man line with Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde.
"It was probably on me a little too, not getting him as much ice (time) as I should," Cooper said.
Cooper said Johnson did not push back when he was moved to wing. Instead, he started generating points.
Johnson said the trio quickly developed a chemistry.
"We’ve having a blast out there," Johnson said.
The fun began Tuesday when Johnson deflected a shot by Anton Stralman passed Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward that tied the score at 2 in the first period. Johnson then gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead 1:58 in to the second when he banged home his own rebound with a twisting effort that sent him airborne.
The play began with a shot by Jake Dotchin that was tipped and struck the post before Johnson was able to get his stick on the puck for his initial shot.
"He made a heck of a save on me on that one," Johnson said. "I was kind of upset about that, but luckily it came back to me and I was able to kind of get that second opportunity or even third opportunity, I suppose. I honestly didn’t know it went in until guys came up to me."
Johnson beat Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin for the puck in the final period for his third goal of the night. That made it a 5-3 game. Dotchin’s third goal of the season five minutes earlier had given the Lightning a one-goal lead.
That lead appeared to have come earlier in the period on a goal by Chris Kunitz, but it was waved off after a replay review determined the Kunitz was offside before scoring.
It was that kind of night for the Lightning. It had a goal disallowed. It didn’t get any real breaks. It did not have a power play.
That’s two straight games without a power play for the Lightning, which seems remarkable. Even more remarkable is it won both games.
"It’s kind of like a badge of honor for us," Cooper said. "Don’t call (a penalty)."
It didn’t matter. The Lightning made it work with two goals from the defense — Victor Hedman scored first for the Lightning — and Johnson’s big night.
The game was delayed while the hats were scooped up and deposited in barrels.
As cool as it is to see the hats flying iceward, Johnson went home empty-handed.
"We never see them," Johnson said.
Not even for a memento?
"I’m not a big souvenir guy," he said.
First Period—1, Carolina, McGinn 7 (Slavin, Williams), 3:23 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Hedman 6 (Stamkos, Kucherov), 10:02. 3, Carolina, Aho 14, 12:10. 4, Tampa Bay, Johnson 14 (Stralman, Point), 16:26. Penalties—Callahan, TB, (tripping), 2:18.
Second Period—5, Tampa Bay, Johnson 15 (Point, Dotchin), 1:58. 6, Carolina, Faulk 4 (Teravainen, Staal), 10:36 (pp). Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Namestnikov (too many men on the ice), 4:50; Coburn, TB, (cross checking), 10:05.
Third Period—7, Tampa Bay, Dotchin 3 (Point, Palat), 9:27. 8, Tampa Bay, Johnson 16 (Hedman), 14:54. 9, Carolina, Lindholm 12 (Teravainen, Faulk), 18:42. Penalties—Stamkos, TB, (delay of game), 15:51.
Shots on Goal—Carolina 8-15-9—32. Tampa Bay 14-11-9—34.
Power-play opportunities—Carolina 2 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 0.
Goalies—Carolina, Ward 11-4-2 (34 shots-29 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 27-6-2 (32-28).
A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:45.
Referees—Gord Dwyer, Kyle Rehman. Linesmen—Matt MacPherson, Jonny Murray.