TAMPA — Tyler Johnson is well-acquainted with Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek. The two saw each other plenty in the 2014-15 postseason, when the Lightning met the Red Wings in the opening round.
Johnson scored six times on Mrazek during that series, and the Tampa Bay forward has found the net another seven times against Mrazek during the regular season.
Johnson got the better of Mrazek yet again during Saturday’s Game 4, scoring the tying goal in the second period of the Lightning’s 6-4 win at Amalie Arena. Johnson’s first goal of the 2021 postseason was the second of four unanswered goals by Tampa Bay.
“To finally score one is good,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to do whatever we can to help the team here.”
With Tampa Bay trailing 4-3 with 2:50 remaining in the period, defenseman Victor Hedman forwarded the puck to Pat Maroon at center ice. Maroon shuffled the puck to Ross Colton on his left.
The rookie forward took three strides before threading a pass through four Carolina players to Johnson on the right. The puck bounced off the toe of Johnson’s stick, putting it in place for a wrister from the top of the right circle.
The puck bounced off the top of the crossbar in the right corner and landed behind Mrazek to tie the score at 4.
“I just try to play a role, try to help out as much as possible, and being down two there, we needed to kind of settle down,” Johnson said. “We get the next one and then the other one, so it just feels good to be able to contribute.”
Jon Cooper went further. Johnson scored a “monster goal,” the coach said, adding to what Cooper considered an “exceptional” postseason run (one goal, one assist) for the veteran forward.
“To be honest, he’s probably had a better playoffs than he had last year (four goals, three assists),” Cooper said. “He’d be the first to tell you that. But his goal was a monster goal, and if there’s one guy that’s faced Mrazek a lot in his career in the playoffs, it’s Tyler Johnson. And he’s scored some huge goals against him in big moments and none other than the one he scored tonight. It was a big goal for us to crawl back into this.”
Cooper’s right. As part of the “Triplets” line with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, Johnson was a big part of the 2014-15 playoff run that ended with a six-game loss to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final.
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Johnson is no longer the 29-goal-scorer he was that year or in 2018-19. He’s playing a more diminished role on the team’s fourth line with Colton and Maroon.
But as his teammates will be the first to say, while his lines may have changed, his work ethic and tenacity have not.
“Not a lot of people see what goes on behind the scenes, especially this year with how tough it has been for Johnny, with all those (trade) rumors and everything happening, the waivers,” Steven Stamkos said. “He just comes to the rink and he puts in the work, and he’s been a huge part of this team for a really long time.
“ ... You give all the credit to him, because he’s going out there and doing whatever it takes to help our team win, and that attitude is contagious in the room when you see a veteran guy like that who’s done so much for this team and organization in playing a reduced role.
“But big moments, he’s stepping in there and delivering.”
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