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Tyler Johnson hat trick lifts Lightning by Rangers in Game 2 (w/video)

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24)  watches as New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) is beat on a goal by Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) making the score 4 to 2 during third period action of game two of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden in New York Monday evening (5/18/15).
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) watches as New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) is beat on a goal by Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) making the score 4 to 2 during third period action of game two of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden in New York Monday evening (5/18/15).
Published May 19, 2015

NEW YORK — From the start Monday night, Tyler Johnson was leading the way.

"And we were all kind of following," wing Alex Killorn said.

Trying to kill a five-on-three Rangers power play early in the first period, Johnson broke free on a breakaway. Rangers veteran wing Marty St. Louis, whom Johnson feels paved the way for undrafted, undersized players like him, desperately gave chase.

"The entire way, I was going to drop pass to (Killorn)," said Johnson, a first-time All-Star with 29 goals this season. "But he was yelling, 'No, no, no!' "

This was Johnson's game. Heck, it's been Johnson's postseason. He continued his Conn Smythe-caliber run with the franchise's first playoff hat trick, lifting the Lightning to a 6-2 win over the Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final.

Johnson, the NHL leader in goals (11) and points (16), again put Tampa Bay on his 5-foot-8 shoulders, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1 as it moves to Amalie Arena for Wednesday's Game 3.

"The bigger the game, the better he plays," coach Jon Cooper said. "That's Tyler Johnson. To do it in the greatest league in the world, on the biggest stage, in the world's most famous arena, it's pretty impressive. It doesn't get any bigger than that. It's been unreal to watch."

Johnson, 24, also set the Tampa Bay record for most multi­goal games in the postseason (four) and became the first in team history to score a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same period.

"Every morning I'm just happy to be here — I'm living my dream," Johnson said. "That's what's driving me, to be the best I can. I'm living my dream, so I want to keep living it as long as possible."

The Lightning entered Monday determined to have a much better performance than Saturday's woeful loss, when captain Steven Stamkos said they weren't there mentally or physically.

Cooper said the Lightning's will and determination were the difference Monday.

"In the first game, we were kind of happy to be here," said Killorn, who had two goals. "We played to win (Monday)."

Johnson scored the Lightning's first three goals, including the back-breaking shorthanded breakaway. The power play continues to heat up, going 3-for-6, with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist giving up a postseason high six goals. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stood tall again, with 35 saves, including two early in the third that preserved a one-goal lead.

But it was Johnson and his Triplets line — which Stamkos calls the best he's seen in a long time — who stole the show.

"It's been a lot of fun, it's been a journey, it's been a ride," Johnson said. "But we're definitely not ready for it to be over. We want to keep it going."

Lightning 2 1 3 6
Rangers 1 1 0 2
Lightning 2 1 3 6
Rangers 1 1 0 2

First Period1, Tampa Bay, Johnson 9 (Killorn), 5:38 (sh). 2, N.Y. Rangers, Kreider 6 (St. Louis, D.Boyle), 8:50 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Johnson 10 (Stamkos, Kucherov), 11:15 (pp). PenaltiesB.Boyle, TB (holding), 3:38; Garrison, TB (delay of game), 4:31; Morrow, TB (high-sticking), 8:15; Kreider, NYR (roughing), 10:00; Callahan, TB (tripping), 10:31; Stepan, NYR (tripping), 11:00; Brassard, NYR (high-sticking), 15:14.

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Second Period4, Tampa Bay, Johnson 11 (Palat, Kucherov), 8:17. 5, N.Y. Rangers, Stepan 5 (St. Louis, D.Boyle), 14:17 (pp). PenaltiesCoburn, TB (roughing), :36; Paquette, TB (interference), 13:42.

Third Period6, Tampa Bay, Killorn 4 (Hedman, Filppula), 3:09. 7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 4 (Coburn, Kucherov), 6:28 (pp). 8, Tampa Bay, Killorn 5 (Garrison, Filppula), 17:58 (pp). PenaltiesStepan, NYR (tripping), 1:02; Brassard, NYR (high-sticking), 4:40; Glass, NYR, minor-misconduct (roughing), 17:10. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 9-6-11—26. N.Y. Rangers 11-11-15—37. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 3 of 6; N.Y. Rangers 2 of 5. GoaliesTampa Bay, Bishop 9-6-0 (37 shots-35 saves). N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 9-5-0 (26-20). A18,006 (18,006). T2:36. Referees—Chris Rooney, Kelly Sutherland. LinesmenBrad Kovachik, Pierre Racicot.

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