TAMPA — As a tribute paying homage to Tyler Johnson played on the Amalie Arena video board Friday night, head coach Jon Cooper fought off watery eyes behind the Lightning bench.
Johnson, traded to the Blackhawks in the offseason for salary-cap relief, played an instrumental role in Tampa Bay’s rise to the top of the NHL and ended his eight-plus seasons with the Lightning by twice lifting the Stanley Cup.
So, when the video played during the first period of Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win over Chicago it was in a way reliving all of the good times.
The home crowd welcomed Johnson back with a standing ovation, and he briefly came off the bench to acknowledge them.
“It’s pretty cool,” Johnson said after the game. “Obviously, Tampa is always going to have a special place in my heart. So to kind of see all the memories and be back and have the fans support me like that is pretty cool.”
Cooper was reflective after the game, which was a milestone for him, as well.
“I was welling up, to be honest,” Cooper said of watching the video tribute. “I’ve coached 700 games I found out (Friday) in this league, and (Johnson) was a big part of a lot of them. And I may not be around for 700 if it wasn’t for guys like Tyler Johnson who performed the way they did for a long period of time while I was the coach.
“There’s a group of guys, the guys (who) have been here since the beginning, I have a special place for them. It was a well-deserved and lovely ovation for him all around.”
Cooper earned his 426th career win, most by any NHL coach in their first 700 games. The previous mark of 419 wins in 700 games was held by Bruce Boudreau (419), currently coaching the Canucks.
NOTE: On the same night that new Lightning forward Nick Paul handed out three assists, Mathieu Joseph — who was sent to the Senators in the trade-deadline deal for Paul — netted his first career hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Red Wings.
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