TAMPA — Alex Killorn battled against Canadiens forward Jordan Weal at the wall for puck possession before fishing the puck out to the corner.
The Lightning forward stepped back, hovering at the edge of the left faceoff circle in the defensive zone as the puck and traffic moved around the right side of the ice. And while everyone’s attention was focused on where the puck went, no one had sight of Killorn, who raced down the ice in line with forward Anthony Cirelli.
Cirelli pulled the puck back, passing it behind him to Killorn. Only Montreal defenseman Brett Kulak stood in their way. Killorn fired the puck past goalie Carey Price to set a personal record in the Lightning’s 4-0 win Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Killorn’s first-period goal, which gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead, was his 48th point of the season, a career best. Killorn improved on the 47 points he had in 2017-18.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to give the Canadiens their first shutout loss of the season. The Lightning (42-20-5) got their fourth shutout of the year.
“I didn’t play well the past few games, so it feels pretty good to get the shutout,” said Vasilevskiy, who improved to 11-1-2 against the Canadiens. “But we played well defensively and we did a great job.’’
Coach Jon Cooper isn’t surprised by Killorn’s successful year.
“For somebody who just turned 30 (in September), to have a career year in really more of a young man’s game … I like seeing that,” Cooper said.
Killorn has recorded seven multipoint games this season and has been one of the most consistent players on the ice. He has gone four or more games without a point only twice this season.
Killorn previously this year set a career high in goals for a season. Thursday night’s goal was his 25th. His previous best was 19 in 2016-17.
Killorn is the third player on the Lightning to get 25 goals this season, after Steven Stamkos (29) and Nikita Kucherov (32), who scored in the second period Thursday to put the Lightning up 3-0.
Killorn’s average ice time has increased from previous seasons to 17:54. He averaged 14:52 last season. His career high is 18 minutes in 2016-17.
Killorn’s shooting is a part of what has made a difference for him this season. He ranks third in the league and first on the Lightning in shooting percentage at 20 percent. His previous best was 11.8 percent in 2018-19.
Cooper has known Killorn for almost his entire pro career (with the exception of the first 32 Lightning games in 2012-13 before he took over as coach). Cooper has seen Killorn take on a more veteran status in the league that has built into a more apparent leadership role, too.
“I think that’s just benefited him on the ice,” Cooper said. “He deserves this. He’s worked hard for us for a lot of years.”
Killorn can’t pinpoint what’s different.
“I think as you get older, you get more comfortable in the league, you find different ways to score,” Killorn said. “But it’s been going really well for me this year.”
He has played with Anthony Cirelli for most of the season, getting in a groove with a center who has made a name for himself early in his NHL career. Cirelli assisted on Killorn’s goal Thursday.
Killorn is comfortable being on a line with a player eight years his junior and who can find Killorn in just the right spots on the ice.
“It seems like I’m just finding the right spots,” Killorn said, “and when I do get the opportunity, I’m making the most of it.”
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Hedman 10 (Cernak, Kucherov), 0:49. 2, Tampa Bay, Killorn 25 (Cirelli), 12:40. Penalties—Bogosian, TB (Interference), 4:59.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 32 (Maroon, Point), 18:55. Penalties—Shattenkirk, TB (Holding), 15:52; Chiarot, Mon (Roughing), 20:00; Sergachev, TB (Fighting), 20:00; Weber, Mon (Fighting), 20:00.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Hedman 11 (Shattenkirk, Gourde), 18:56 (pp). Penalties—Cernak, TB (Interference), 14:59; Chiarot, Mon (Roughing), 17:26; Chiarot, Mon (Misconduct), 17:26; Folin, Mon (Slashing), 19:44.
Shots on Goal—Montreal 8-12-12_32. Tampa Bay 12-6-5_23. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Montreal, Price 27-23-6 (23 shots-19 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 33-13-3 (32-32). T—2:28. Referees—Jon Mclsaac, Kendrick Nicholson. Linesmen—Devin Berg, Pierre Racicot.