TAMPA — In a game pitting two rookie of the year candidates, Lightning center Tyler Johnson stole the show Saturday night.
Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon entered with more hype as the No. 1 overall pick.
But Johnson delivered his first hat trick, leading the Lightning to a 5-2 win at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In doing so, Johnson tied MacKinnon for the rookie lead with 34 points and is second in goals with 16, one behind MacKinnon.
"Fairly decent timing on Tyler's part," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He was on it."
Like Johnson, an undrafted center, his goals weren't flashy: two rebounds and a deflection.
"It's just one of those things that you have to get lucky to get," said Johnson, who has four goals and four assists over a five-game points streak. "I couldn't have done it without my linemates; just happened to be in the right spot."
MacKinnon played pretty well, too, picking up an assist and zipping around the ice.
"I can't believe he's 18," Cooper said. "That's pretty impressive."
Shortly after MacKinnon missed an open net in the second, Johnson made it 1-0 by poking in a rebound of a Victor Hedman shot that hit the post. The Lightning (31-16-5) took a 3-0 lead against rookie Sami Aittokallio, who made his second start. That included the third goal in as many games for defenseman Mark Barberio, whose wrister was deflected and trickled in. "It wasn't the prettiest goal," Barberio said, "but you put a shot on net and you never know what happens."
But the Avalanche scored twice in 30-second span near the end of the period.
"We built a 3-0 lead in a period in which we got outplayed," Cooper said. "The score eventually evened out. They earned those two goals."
And Johnson earned his two insurance goals in the third, the first a wrist shot off a rebound that beat Semyon Varlamov, who was inserted to start the third.
"A goal-scorer's goal," Cooper said.
Johnson capped his night by deflecting a Hedman point shot, clinching the first hat trick for a Lightning rookie since Steven Stamkos on Feb. 17, 2009.
Cooper pointed out Johnson also played well defensively against the Avalanche's top line:
"He just played one hell of a game, on both ends of the ice."
First Period—None. Penalties—Parenteau, Col (interference), 1:45; Parenteau, Col (hooking), 6:29; Crombeen, TB (boarding), 9:18; Barberio, TB (holding), 18:24.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Johnson 14 (Hedman, Palat), 7:15. 2, Tampa Bay, Barberio 3 (Filppula, Killorn), 8:48. 3, Tampa Bay, Filppula 19 (Brown, Kucherov), 18:04. 4, Colorado, Mitchell 5 (Landeskog, Barrie), 18:33. 5, Colorado, Barrie 6 (MacKinnon, Parenteau), 19:03. Penalties—T.Johnson, TB (high-sticking), 1:22.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Johnson 15 (St. Louis, Hedman), 14:38. 7, Tampa Bay, Johnson 16 (Hedman, Salo), 16:55. Penalties—E.Johnson, Col (high-sticking), 17:55. Shots on Goal—Colorado 7-14-6—27. Tampa Bay 11-7-11—29. Power-play opportunities—Colorado 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Colorado, Aittokallio 0-1-0 (18 shots-15 saves), Varlamov (0:00 third, 11-9). Tampa Bay, Bishop 26-6-4 (27-25). A—19,204 (19,204).