Tyler Johnson is having an amazing playoff run and he’s been the story in Game 2 against the New York Rangers. Johnson opened the contest’s scoring with a shorthanded breakaway and followed it up with a power-play marker less than six minutes later.
Tampa Bay had a 2-1 lead going into the second period thanks to his efforts and he provided them with some extra insurance while completing the hat trick midway through the frame:
This is the first time a Lightning player has earned a hat trick in a playoff game. Johnson now has 11 markers in 15 contests, which is four more than the next best player on the playoffs goal scoring leaderboard.
He’s also scored in all situations tonight as his latest was tallied while the teams were at even strength.
His playoff run is remarkable under any circumstances, but it’s particularly special when you remember that Johnson was never drafted. Like former Lightning captain and current Rangers player Martin St. Louis, Johnson is a small forward that’s had to prove himself every step of the way.
Tyler Johnson had a strong sophomore campaign and he’s gotten even better since the playoffs began. After giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded breakaway early in the first period, Johnson found the back of the net again less than six minutes later:
That was his 10th goal in just 15 playoff games. To put that in perspective, no other NHL player has more than seven goals so far in the postseason. He also accounts for roughly 27% of Tampa Bay’s playoff goals.
Johnson has been part of the very effective Triplets line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The trio has been the Lightning’s top three goal scorers so far, with Steven Stamkos tied for fourth with three markers. That being said, the Triplets line wasn’t the difference early in Game 2 as special teams was instead the story.
That might be to the Lightning’s benefit as their five-on-five play was an area of concern in Game 1.
The Lightning finished the opening frame up 2-1. The Rangers have averaged just two goals per game in the playoffs and while that’s served them well enough so far, they’ll obviously need to do better tonight to extend their series lead to 2-0.
The New York Rangers had an ideal opportunity to take an early lead against Tampa Bay as Lightning forward Brian Boyle got two minutes for holding and then teammate Jason Garrison was sent to the box for a delay of game less than a minute later.
Not only did the Rangers fail to capitalize on that extended 5-on-3, but Tyler Johnson ended up scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal after Rangers forward Martin St. Louis gave up the puck.
The goal was initially waived off because the net was knocked off its moorings, but a review determined that it was a good goal. You can see that below:
The Rangers were able to get some measure of redemption though as Tampa Bay’s Brenden Morrow was called off for high sticking at 8:15 of the first frame and Chris Kreider was able to convert on the power play:
Brian Boyle was something of a surprise scratch in Game 1 due to an undisclosed injury. The Lightning were secretive about his status in the lead up to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight, but as it turns out he’s good to go.
Boyle was put back into the lineup and is projected to play alongside Brenden Morrow and J.T. Brown on the fourth line. Vladislav Namestnikov, who skated with Morrow and Brown in Game 1, will be a healthy scratch after dressing in 11 of the Lightning’s first 12 playoff contests. Namestnikov was limited to just 6:52 minutes of ice time on Saturday.
By contrast, Boyle has averaged 15:36 minutes per contest in the postseason, including 2:49 in shorthanded situations. The Lightning suffered a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 without him.
“(Boyle’s) a big part of our team,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after that contest. “He kills penalties for us. He’s a big body. He can wear on teams. Of course we miss him.”
On second thought, Game 1 made Lightning’s Cooper ‘want to vomit’
The list of candidates being considered for the Sharks’ vacant head coaching job has expanded to include Dan Bylsma. San Jose has gotten permission to interview him, per ESPN’s Craig Custance.
Bylsma had a 252-117-32 regular season record with the Pittsburgh Penguins and led them to a Stanley Cup championship in his first campaign as their bench boss. At the same time, the Penguins struggled to live up to that standard their subsequent playoff runs, which might be of particular note to San Jose given the franchise’s reputation for underperforming in the postseason.
San Jose also appears to be considering Pete DeBoer for the gig and has reportedly expressed an interest in Mike Babcock as well.
Whoever the Sharks end up with will be replacing Todd McLellan, who appears to be on the verge of signing with Edmonton.
San Jose missed the playoffs in 2014-15 for the first time since 2003. Since the organization’s debut in 1991, San Jose has only failed to advance to the postseason in six campaigns, but has never reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Bylsma studying in preparation for his eventual return