Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning journal: It's like old times for reunited Triplets

TAMPA — The Triplets line is back. Will the reunion last?

"It's getting results, so I hope so," C Tyler Johnson said after Tuesday's 4-1 win against the Oilers. "I like playing with those guys. They're fun to play with. They're great hockey players. Makes the game easier for me."

The line of Johnson, RW Nikita Kucherov and LW Ondrej Palat, which reunited during the third period Saturday in Dallas, produced the first three goals against the Oilers.

Palat scored twice. Kucherov had a goal and three assists. Johnson had two assists. That came after they combined for 13 shots but zero goals in Sunday's overtime win at Colorado.

"Yeah, hopefully we can keep going with that," Palat said. "The last couple of games were pretty good."

The Triplets were a force during the Lightning's run to the 2015 Stanley Cup final. They played together sporadically during the next two seasons, broken up because of injuries to other forwards and because coach Jon Cooper was searching for productive line combinations.

But, Cooper acknowledged before Tuesday's game, "When they're together they're a great fallback for a coach."

Cooper said it's not like he can put them together and suddenly they are the Triplets.

"It's playing the right way before that happens," Cooper said.

That means playing well defensively creates the open spaces that create the offense.

MEET CONNOR: Conner McDavid, who leads the NHL in points (67) and assists (47), played his first game at Amalie Arena, having missed last year's Oilers visit to Tampa because of an injury.

Cooper, who coached McDavid last September in the World Cup of Hockey, compared him to Sidney Crosby.

"I would sit here and say (Crosby) was probably the best accelerator through a puck that I had ever seen until I saw Conner McDavid," Cooper said. "I can't sit here and say one is faster than the other. For guys to be able to go into an extra gear with a puck is really hard to do, and they're the best at it."

LIGHTNING STRIKES: C Steven Stamkos (right knee surgery) skated and took shots on goal before Tuesday's practice with assistant coach Brad Lauer. … With three points Tuesday, Kucherov reached 204 for his career.

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