Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Alex Killorn clutch in key games for Lightning (w/ video)

TAMPA — A few hours before scoring the series-clinching goal Thursday, wing Alex Killorn watched some of the pregame show on television.

The analysts were breaking down Game 5 of the first-round matchup between the Lightning and Red Wings, who were facing elimination. Killorn, 26, heard them say Detroit needed to stop Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson if it wanted to win.

And Killorn had to chuckle.

"I didn't see my name," said Killorn, smiling. "I mean, I was (Kucherov and Johnson's) linemate. I would have thought they'd maybe stop me, too."

The Red Wings didn't. Killorn may have been the forgotten man by the talking heads, but Lightning fans will likely always remember how the 6-foot-2, 198-pound forward sealed the 1-0 nail-biting win with his goal with 1:43 left. The goal was more workman like than flashy, but Killorn did what he does best, driving the net and scoring clutch goals, his third of the series.

Call him Mr. Third Period.

Killorn also scored the winner in Game 1, deftly redirecting a Johnson pass in the crease with 11 minutes to go. Then he set up the winner in Game 2, circling the net and finding Johnson in front for a give-and-go. Thursday's winner was his second series-sealing goal in as many years. He tallied the winner in the third period of Game 7 of May's Eastern Conference final in a 2-0 victory over the Rangers.

You get the drift.

"We've had some guys that on a number of occasions have risen above everybody," coach Jon Cooper said. "Johnson got a lot of accolades, (Victor) Hedman, (Kucherov), go down the list. Killorn is not talked about as much. He seems to rise to the occasion when the playoffs come. It's been good for us."

Few Lightning players saw their stars rise more in last year's run to the Stanley Cup final than Killorn, who had nine goals and nine assists. But Killorn flew under the radar compared with Johnson, defenseman Hedman and goalie Ben Bishop. Killorn said he doesn't care about the accolades but admits he's able to elevate his game in the playoffs, as he did with his how-did-he-do-that redirection goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks.

The timing this year couldn't be better for Tampa Bay, badly in need of secondary scoring with captain Steven Stamkos out with a blood clot. In the second round, the Lightning faces the winner of the Panthers-Islanders series.

"The intensity rises up, and I think in certain players, you rise to the occasion, you bring the intensity up," Killorn said. "When I'm playing harder and I'm playing more intense, I think that's when I'm playing my best hockey."

To be fair, Killorn's winner Thursday wasn't a one-man show. Wing Ryan Callahan made the play happen, starting with a steal in the defensive zone. Then came Callahan's relentless forecheck behind the net to steal the puck on a weak pass by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek.

Callahan said he knew Killorn was heading for the crease but wasn't sure if he'd get position. Killorn did, beating Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall to the right post for the 2-foot tap in, and the sellout crowd of 19,092 exploded.

"It's stuff you dream about," Killorn said. "And to do it on this stage is pretty surreal."

It shouldn't come as a surprise from him anymore. The story line with Killorn is he's the "Harvard guy," one of the few NHL players who came from the Ivy League school.

"That's what I'm known for," Killorn said. "So maybe that's changed now."

 
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