TAMPA — It's the playoffs, and against the Red Wings.
So it must be Tyler Johnson's time to steal the show.
Few Lightning players saw their star rise more in last year's playoffs than Johnson, who almost single-handedly lifted his team to a seven-game series victory over Detroit, including six goals.
Now, he's starting to add another chapter to it.
Johnson's two third-period goals, including the winner, on Friday sealed the Lightning's 5-2 victory over the Red Wings in Game 2 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. Johnson's four-point night (tying a franchise record) put Tampa Bay up 2-0 in this suddenly nasty best-of-seven series, which included a bloody brawl in the final minute.
"You're learning that last year's playoffs were not a fluke," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Time and time again, playing in the big games, (Johnson) continues to rise to the occasion. Definitely glad he's on our bench."
Said Brian Boyle: "The kid has got a lot of heart. He's a huge part of our team and he's leading the way right now."
Johnson didn't do it alone, crediting his line with Alex Killorn (goal, assist) and Nikita Kucherov (goal, assist), which continued its dominance, combining for 15 points (plus-18) in the first two games.
"Fabulous," Cooper said.
"A hell of a line," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Ben Bishop had 30 saves, and wing Jonathan Drouin continued to dazzle, his highlight-reel assist on Brian Boyle's goal right on the tape. "That's what he does," Cooper said.
Delivering in the postseason is what Johnson does. There might have been some doubters, especially considering his relatively down, injury-plagued year, just 14 goals compared to 29 in his All-Star 2014-15.
"What we focus on the most is the playoffs," Johnson said. "That's what we play for, that's what we train for, that's the fun part of the year. It's been a frustrating year up to this point, but it's just getting ready for this."
There was a question whether Johnson would even be ready to play at the start of the series, considering how bad it looked when he hit his head/shoulder on the boards in the regular-season finale April 9 against Montreal.
"There was a few other things that went through my mind," Johnson said. "As soon as I took a breath and relaxed and was able to fly home, that was the ultimate goal to play in Game 1, and I tried to do everything I could to be able to do that."
The Lightning displayed its resilience, scoring within three minutes each time the Red Wings tied the score. That included Johnson's first goal, set up beautifully by Killorn, who circled the net and fed Johnson at the right post. Johnson's second one sealed it with six minutes left, a one-timer from the slot.
Cooper noted Johnson was clutch in the playoffs in juniors in the Memorial Cup, with Cooper's AHL Norfolk team in the Calder Cup and now on the biggest stage.
"That's why guys get the names they get," Cooper said. "He's adding to his playing card."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 3 (Hedman, Johnson), 15:17 (pp). Penalties—Killorn, TB (holding), 2:00; Quincey, Det (roughing), 11:11; Nyquist, Det (slashing), 14:20; Abdelkader, Det (tripping), 14:47.
Second Period—2, Detroit, Larkin 1 (Ericsson, Kronwall), 3:30. 3, Tampa Bay, Boyle 1 (Drouin, Coburn), 6:46. Penalties—Larkin, Det (hooking), 1:12; Datsyuk, Det (roughing), 10:21; Sheahan, Det (roughing), 11:50; Hedman, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:50; Drouin, TB (roughing), 11:50; Hedman, TB (hooking), 14:03; Boyle, TB (interference), 17:35.
Third Period—4, Detroit, Richards 1 (Green, Tatar), 4:27 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Johnson 1 (Killorn), 6:32. 6, Tampa Bay, Johnson 2 (Kucherov, Garrison), 14:48. 7, Tampa Bay, Killorn 2 (Carle, Johnson), 17:16 (en). Penalties—Nesterov, TB (high-sticking), 2:53; Tatar, Det (holding stick), 6:57; Richards, Det, minor-major (slashing, fighting), 19:06; Green, Det, misconduct, 19:06; Abdelkader, Det, game misconduct, 19:06; Marchenko, Det, misconduct, 19:06; Larkin, Det, minor-misconduct (slashing), 19:06; R.Callahan, TB, minor-misconduct (roughing), 19:06; Blunden, TB (roughing), 19:06; Nesterov, TB, major (fighting), 19:06; Paquette, TB, misconduct, 19:06; Sustr, TB, misconduct, 19:06; Abdelkader, Det, major (fighting), 19:08. Shots on Goal—Detroit 15-8-9—32. Tampa Bay 12-9-10—31. Power-play opportunities—Detroit 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 1 of 6. Goalies—Detroit, Howard 0-2-0 (30 shots-26 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 2-0-0 (32-30). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:51. Referees—Chris Rooney, Francois St. Laurent. Linesmen—Matt MacPherson, Brian Murphy.