Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning edges Leafs for seventh straight win (w/video)

TORONTO — Nearly a dozen stitches remain just above the swollen and slightly discolored left eye of center Tyler Johnson, a reminder of Sunday's scary sight.

Then, late in the game in Boston, Johnson was struck in the face by a puck; fortunately, his visor bore the brunt of impact. But the resulting cut led him to skate off the ice with a blood-soaked towel over his forehead.

"It wasn't bad," Johnson said. "Looked a lot worse than it was."

Johnson said there was no doubt he'd play Monday, and he ended up stealing the show at the Air Canada Centre. He scored two goals to lift the Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay's seventh straight, to pull it into a first-place tie with Florida in the Atlantic Division.

"Shows a lot of character coming back from that puck to the eye (Sunday) and gets rewarded from the hockey gods," said captain Steven Stamkos, whose goal-scoring streak was snapped at six games, one shy of his career high. "It wasn't our best, but we found a way to win. That's what good teams do."

The Lightning (37-22-4) dubbed this one a "character win," its third road victory in four nights, against a young Maple Leafs team that resembled its AHL affiliate thanks to a massive wave of callups Monday morning. The Lightning leaned heavily on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who racked up 31 saves for his third win against Toronto in as many games. The Lightning has allowed two or fewer goals in each of its past six games.

"Ultimately, we left it in the hands of our goaltender," coach Jon Cooper said. "Probably not the thing you want to do. Vasy took it home for us. He was the guy."

So was Johnson. It's been a rough season for Johnson, who was an All-Star and postseason hero last season but has missed 13 games with a couple of injuries. That made Sunday's puck to the face a what-else-could-go-wrong moment.

"That thought crossed my mind for sure," quipped Johnson, who has 10 goals. "It's been a weird year. But you've just got to keep going. We're just trying to get to the playoffs, that's where the real season starts."

With general manager Steve Yzerman deciding to stand pat at Monday's trade deadline, keeping the defending Eastern Conference champions intact, Johnson said all the players were comfortable and confident with the current group.

"It's basically the same team that made it to the Stanley Cup final a year ago and got so close," Johnson said. "Just another year of experience. All the guys are working well together, everything is coming together at the right moment. I think we're happy with what we've got. Management is happy obviously by not pulling the trigger on anything.

"We're confident in our group and we're going to take it as far as we can."

Medical matters: Defenseman Jason Garrison returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. Garrison played 15 minutes, 54 seconds, with three hits. "It felt not bad, not great," Garrison said. "But it's always tough coming back in, trying to get adjusted to everything."

The Lightning went with seven defensemen, and was glad it did as Andrej Sustr was limited to just 5:47 after suffering an undisclosed injury. Cooper said Sustr "jammed something" and they didn't want to push him so "just gave him the rest of the night off."

With honors: Right wing Ryan Calla­han's recent resurgence caught the attention of the league Monday, when he was named the NHL's second star of the week. Callahan led the league with six points (two goals, four assists) in three games. "It's confidence coming together," Callahan said. "I'm getting the bounces here and there."

Nuts and bolts: Right wing Erik Condra and center Jonathan Marchessault were healthy scratches. … Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo has a hearing with the NHL's department of player safety today regarding his illegal check to the head Sunday of Lightning center Cedric Paquette, who returned for the second period.

 

Lightning 0 2 0 2
Maple Leafs 0 0 1 1

 

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesMarincin, Tor (holding), 13:09.

Second Period1, Tampa Bay, T.Johnson 10 (Kucherov, Coburn), 4:53. 2, Tampa Bay, T.Johnson 11, 15:28. PenaltiesNesterov, TB (holding), 16:56.

Third Period3, Toronto, Kadri 12 (Rielly, Gardiner), 17:45. PenaltiesPaquette, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), :41; Killorn, TB (cross-checking), 6:55; Kadri, Tor (roughing), 6:55; J.Brown, TB, major (fighting), 17:06; C.Carrick, Tor, major (fighting), 17:06. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 15-5-8—28. Toronto 9-11-12—32. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 1; Toronto 0 of 2. GoaliesTampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 11-5-0 (32 shots-31 saves). Toronto, Sparks 3-2-0 (28-26). A18,933 (18,819). T2:28.

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