Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Johnson, Lightning get key win at Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Alex Killorn said that during the Lightning's morning meeting Tuesday, they brought up how, just two years ago, they were in this same United Center two wins from a Stanley Cup.

For a Tampa Bay team that entered the day in the Eastern Conference cellar, it was an important reminder of why many picked them to finish on top.

"We can do some special things," Killorn said.

On Tuesday, the Lightning certainly did. Tampa Bay rallied for a 5-2 come-from-behind victory over the Blackhawks. It was Chicago's first regulation loss when leading after two periods in three seasons. For Tampa Bay (22-22-5), veteran Brian Boyle said this might have been its biggest game of the season. It snapped a three-game losing streak and is a sign the Lightning has plenty of fight left.

"It just shows what we have in here," Killorn said.

The Lightning leaders delivered. Tyler Johnson broke a third-period tie with two goals in 30 seconds, his biggest game-breaking performance of the season. Killorn was brilliant, his hustle on the rush fueling both of Johnson's goals. Boyle had a goal and assist. And goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy gave Tampa Bay a chance with 34 saves.

"Sometimes you need your goaltender to be your best player," coach Jon Cooper said. "And he was (Tuesday)."

The Lightning still has a long way to go to get back in playoff position, but this win — giving it five out of 10 possible points on this six-city trip — helped it keep pace with the teams it is chasing.

Tampa Bay remains five points behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic with two games in hand.

"This is desperation mode," Cooper said.

The Lightning came out with much better energy than in Saturday's embarrassing 5-3 loss in Arizona. Tampa Bay was moving its feet, creating chances. But Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was up for the task.

Tampa Bay would get a huge goal to tie the score with just over a minute left in the first. Boyle dazzled with a deke for his 12th goal of the season. Only Nikita Kucherov (17), Jonathan Drouin (14), Johnson (15) and Killorn (13) have more goals this season.

It didn't look good entering the third, with the Blackhawks 16-0-1 this season when leading after two periods. But Boyle helped Tampa Bay tie it up three minutes in, winning an offensive zone faceoff. The puck went right back to Nikita Nesterov, who ripped a blast from the point.

Then Johnson took over with the kind of heroics he had in the 2014-15 run to the Cup final. In this same building.

"Obviously if you look at this year, it's pretty easy to lose confidence the way things have been going," Johnson said. "It was nice to be back here and realize we were two wins away from the Cup. And it's pretty much the same team, same everything.

"We know what we can do, it's just a matter of doing it. And it started (Tuesday)."

Lightning1045
Blackhawks1102

First Period—1, Chicago, Toews 9 (Hartman, Panik), 10:23. 2, Tampa Bay, Boyle 12 (Filppula), 18:35.

Second Period—3, Chicago, Keith 3 (Toews, Panarin), 1:26.

Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Nesterov 3 (Boyle), 2:47. 5, Tampa Bay, Johnson 14 (Killorn, Filppula), 6:14. 6, Tampa Bay, Johnson 15 (Vasilevskiy, Killorn), 6:44. 7, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 18, 17:55.

Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 10-12-14—36. Chicago 11-11-14—36.

Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Chicago 0 of 3.

Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 11-11-2 (36 shots-34 saves). Chicago, Crawford 18-11-3 (35-31).

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