TAMPA — While all of Tampa Bay was going completely bonkers, Tyler Johnson was upset.
Just eight seconds earlier, the Lightning center hopped over the boards, found his Superman cape and scored a goal on his first shot of the game to give his team the lead, the game and, you would think, this second-round series against the Canadiens.
The giant scoreboard above the suddenly quaking Amalie Arena said there was 1.1 seconds left in the third period Wednesday. Lightning coach Jon Cooper knew exactly how much time was left because he was watching the clock almost constantly for the final minute.
So was pretty much everyone on both teams and the 19,204 in the stands who were quickly losing their voices and their minds.
Johnson went from thrilled to annoyed in a flash. What gives?
"Honestly, I didn't even know it was that close to the buzzer," Johnson said. "I was just excited it crossed the line. I wasn't thinking about the time at all."
That is, until the officials checked the replay just to make sure Johnson scored before zeroes overtook the clock.
"I was a little upset when I saw that they were reviewing the goal," Johnson said.
Think he was upset, imagine the Canadiens when they found out that Johnson had beat the clock and goalie Carey Price. And imagine the heartbreak they felt when it kicked in that he had beaten them.
"That's the playoffs," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "All you need is one second to win a hockey game."
And, perhaps, the series. This is over, right? Well, not so fast. Anything is possible in these wacky playoffs, especially when it comes to the Lightning. But it is now in complete control, taking a 3-0 lead in the series with a chance to close out the Canadiens tonight and advance to the conference final for the third time in franchise history.
Years from now, especially if the Lightning goes on to do more special things in these playoffs, Wednesday's Game 3 will be remembered as the most thrilling end to a game in franchise history. A goal with 1.1 seconds left? In the playoffs? Are you kidding?
"You got to play right till the end," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "That's the saying for a reason."
It's also a saying used when you don't play well for much of the first 59 minutes, 58 seconds. As thrilling as the ending was, it also wiped out the fact that the Lightning probably didn't deserve to win Game 3. Center Brian Boyle said it wasn't the type of game the Lightning normally plays or expected to play Wednesday night.
The Canadiens, as you would expect, were the more desperate team.
"I can't ask for more," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. Well, he could ask for a victory.
The positive spin for the Lightning?
"I don't think teams that go through the grinds of the playoffs paint a Picasso every time they play," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "But in saying that, we did win the game."
How? Not that the Lightning or Canadiens care about the details at this point, but the Lightning's improbable victory started with a stingy defense and a heavy dose of goalie Ben Bishop, who stopped 30 of 31 shots. Throw in a first-period goal by Alex Killorn and Johnson's last-second miracle and the Lightning won a game that really didn't seem likely when the Canadiens tied the score midway through the third period.
"It was tough," Stamkos said. "I'm sure everyone could sense it and you could feel it in the rink. It was a little quiet. … Everyone was a little nervous, a little tense. Somehow you find a way to win these games. They can be a backbreaker for a team and they can be a huge lift when you don't play your best, you can still find a way."
The Lightning found a way and didn't even need overtime.
"It's a fun time going to overtime," Johnson said, "but no one really wants to do it."
Johnson, who scored an overtime goal in the Detroit series, made sure overtime wasn't necessary. His NHL-leading eighth playoff goal this postseason now has the Lightning a victory away from revenge. Tampa Bay can sweep the team that swept it a year ago.
But don't unbuckle your seat belt just yet. There is no tougher game to win in a series than the fourth victory. Earlier in these playoffs, the Canadiens took a 3-0 series lead on the Senators and ended up going to six games before advancing.
Last season, the Lightning fell behind 3-0 to the Canadiens and had little hope of winning the series at that point. Montreal won Game 4, but that was, by far, the most competitive game of that series.
"It's a race to four and we just got the third," Cooper said.
The Lightning will have to be better tonight than it was in Game 3. But it has a couple of things going for it. One is a hot goalie. The other is Johnson, a player the Lightning can depend on.
All the way to the last second.