LOS ANGELES — RW Jonathan Drouin's assist Monday was timely, setting up the tying goal in a 2-1 win over the Kings.
It was also terrific, likely to make the top of the Lightning's season highlight reel.
With about five minutes left in the first period, Drouin darted up the right boards toward the Kings blueline, with F Tanner Pearson draped on his side. At high speed, Drouin hit the brakes and spun away, leaving Pearson in his wake. Drouin then waited for a passing lane, threading a pass through traffic to C Tyler Johnson, who finished from the back post.
"That's what elite offensive-minded players can make," coach Jon Cooper said. "And Jo is elite in that regard."
Drouin said he just tried to create separation from Pearson and find somebody open. Johnson saw Drouin beat Pearson, so he put himself in a passing lane. Drouin's pass slid under Kings C Jeff Carter's stick.
"Had to make it quick," Drouin said. "You had that split second to make a play."
Said Johnson: "A great play."
MAKING HIS MARK: The Lightning had a season-high 41 hits — seventh most in franchise history — and the biggest might have been one of the first. D Luke Witkowski set the tone just over a minute in with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Kings F Kyle Clifford, who quickly challenged him to a fight. Witkowski had three hits and an assist in 10 minutes of ice time.
"He was a difference-maker for us," Cooper said. "It's not been the staple of our team being big and physical, but he brings an element like that to our team. (The Clifford hit) was uplifting for us."
ROLE MODEL: RW J.T. Brown (upper body injury) missed his fourth straight game and is expected to be out again today.
But Brown had a special moment pregame as he got to chat with pioneer Willie O'Ree, who was the first African-American to play in the NHL for the Bruins in 1958. Brown, one of 17 black players currently in the NHL, had met O'Ree five years ago. But Brown looked forward to reuniting Monday, when O'Ree dropped the ceremonial puck before the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.
"He broke so many barriers, made it possible for me to play the game that I love," Brown said. "Anything I can do to keep growing the game, keep doing the things he did to help, that's something I'm willing to do.
MEDICAL MATTERS: C Brayden Point is on the trip but not yet practicing. He's still likely a couple of weeks away from returning, having been expected to miss 4-6 weeks after a late December upper body injury.
NUTS AND BOLTS: St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong, whose Blues played in Anaheim on Sunday, watched some of Monday's game with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. … Two reps from the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights were in attendance. … RW Erik Condra played. LW Joel Vermin was scratched. C Cedric Paquette had five hits and was 5-for-5 on faceoffs.