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Lightning’s Mathieu Joseph making most of Stanley Cup opportunity

Playing his first minutes in a Cup final, the Tampa Bay forward has two key assists against Montreal.
Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (hidden) celebrates his goal with teammates Tyler Johnson (9), Mathieu Joseph (7), and Ryan McDonagh (27) during the third period of Game 4.
Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (hidden) celebrates his goal with teammates Tyler Johnson (9), Mathieu Joseph (7), and Ryan McDonagh (27) during the third period of Game 4. [ CHRISTINNE MUSCHI | Special to the Times ]
Published Jul. 6

If there was any doubt Mathieu Joseph was ready to play in the Stanley Cup final after watching last postseason from off the ice, he’s all but quashed them.

With veteran forward Alex Killorn sidelined with an injury, Joseph has been active for the past three games against the Montreal Canadiens. In that time, he’s recorded the first two postseason points of his career, both assists.

Joseph assisted on Tyler Johnson’s second-period goal in the Lightning’s 6-3 win Friday in Game 3, then set up Pat Maroon’s game-tying goal in the third period of Monday’s 3-2 loss in Game 4.

Friday, Joseph took a pass from David Savard, skated into the offensive zone on a 2-1 with Johnson and shot from the left circle. Montreal goaltender Carey Price made the save, but the puck deflected off Joseph’s skate into the slot, where Johnson scored on a backhanded shot to give Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead.

Monday, Joseph passed off the rush over the stick of diving Montreal defenseman Alexander Romanov to Maroon as he drove the net, and Maroon tipped the puck past Price to tie the score at 2.

The opportunity to get back into the lineup at such an important time was important to Joseph.

Related: As long as you don’t believe in jinxes, the Lightning still have this handled

“It means a lot. I’m not going to lie to you,” Joseph, 24, said after Friday’s game. “I’ve been in this organization for five years now, spent the last 2-1/2 years in the NHL, too, and being part of that last year in the bubble was definitely special, even though I didn’t play.

“I consider these guys my family, and being part of it and on the bench is different than when you’re off the ice, so (I’m) definitely happy to be part of it for the time that I got so far. It’s definitely something that you want to be part of and you’ve worked hard all year for that.”

Related: When push came to shove, Canadiens stood tall

Joseph didn’t see any ice time last postseason, despite spending 65 days in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles. While disappointing, it gave him a chance to work on his game, conditioning and skills with coaches — all things he has said needed improvement.

This postseason was much the same, with Joseph working on his game before and after morning skates and practices with the other healthy scratches. After playing in two games during the opening round against Florida (when Barclay Goodrow was out with an upper-body injury), he eased comfortably into the lineup.

His teammates have noticed, too.

Maroon skated with Joseph for much of the regular season (with Joseph playing in all 56 regular-season games, recording 12 goals and seven assists) and appreciates the value Joseph brings to the fourth line.

“We were actually a really good line (during the regular season),” Maroon said. “Going over video watching clips, we were very effective. ... I’m glad Joe is back in there, he’s doing good things. That’s good about our team, you can throw a guy in, like Mathieu Joseph that’s been around and has experience, a good player. To have him back on that line is good.”

Up next:

Who: Lightning vs. Canadiens, Game 5

When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Where: Tampa, Florida, at Amalie Arena

Watch: NBC

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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