Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Tyler Johnson sparks Bolts again, Tampa Bay leads 3-0

in Apolitical/Sports/Top Headlines by

There isn’t much size to the player.

There wasn’t much time left on the clock.

On the other hand, there isn’t that much length to a dagger, either.

Tyler Johnson, who is on the verge of turning the NHL playoffs into his personal highlight film, did it again Wednesday night. On his only shot of the night, Johnson scored with 1.1 seconds left on the clock to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to an unthinkable — and possibly undeserved — victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

It was the eighth goal of the post-season for Johnson, and the third game-winner. And somewhere across the league, general managers are turning to their scouts and asking, one more time, “why wasn’t that guy drafted?”

Johnson has never been bigger, or faster, or more skilled. Has a Lightning player ever had a playoff like this? Was Brad Richards this good? Was Sean Bergenheim? Was Marty St. Louis this clutch this many times in a single playoff?

For most of the night, Johnson had been a bystander. In 59 minutes and 58.9 seconds, he hadn’t even gotten off a shot on goal.

And then Victor Hedman had the puck, and he found a lane to Johnson’s stick, and the Lightning had somehow won.

And how did that happen?

It was so close, in fact, that officials reviewed the play. Maybe they were having trouble believing what they were seeing, too.

“I was a little upset when I saw they were reviewing it, because I didn’t know it was that close,” Johnson said. “I was driving to the net, and Hedman was coming in wide. I saw there was going to be somewhat of a lane. I was just praying (the puck) was going to come to me. He made a great play, found my stick, and I was able to put it in. It was like a giant weight off the shoulder.”

This is how stars are born. They succeed when the game matters the most. Johnson had 29 goals during the regular season, and he made the all-star team. But suddenly, he is the essential Bolt.

“Truly amazing,” said coach Jon Cooper. “I’m just fortunate I’m the coach who gets to call him over the boards.”

Can you imagine what a villain Johnson is in Montreal today? The Canadiens had thoroughly outplayed the Bolts, outshooting them 31-19. When Montreal scored its tying goal in the third period, it was ahead 27-12. It was armed with Carey Price, and he was rarely even being challenged.

And still, Montreal lost.

“It happened really quickly,’ said Monreal’s P.K. Subban. “It seemed like they had seven guys on the ice. Just looking around, there were guys everywhere. That’s the playoffs. It comes down to one bounce and all you need is one second to win.”

If Johnson ever writes a book, that’s a nice title: One second to win.

“You always knew he was going to be a star in this league,” said teammate Alex Killorn, who scored Tampa Bay’s first goal. “Whenever there is a tight moment, it seems like he makes a play.”

Said Johnson: “I’m playing with some great players. They keep finding me. I don’t know if that’s luck. I just hope it continues.”

In this post-season, you might suggest that Johnson has taken on the role of Steven Stamkos. Stammer has one goal in 10 post-season games. Johnson has eight.

“He’s scored some big goals for us,” Stamkos said.

Overall, Stamkos was not pleased with the Lightning’s effort. Montreal, down 2-0, was the more desperate team, playing urgently for most of the game. The Lightning didn’t match that desperation. Tonight, Stamkos said, the team has to play better.

“Obviously, we’re excited about the win., bit we’re not very proud of the way we played,” Stamkos said. “They were a desperate team, had more chances than we did. They knew their backs were against the wall, and they played like it. We didn’t respond that great.”

The Lightning did have goaltender Ben Bishop, however, who stopped 30 of 31 shots en route to his fifth straight win in the playoffs. It was the third straight game he has outplayed Price – more saves, fewer goals and he has won the game – in the series. Not bad when you consider that Price was supposed to be the key advantage for the Canadiens. In fact, for all the talk of Price being the league’s MVP, you wonder if it is too late to get a vote in for Bishop.

Did you know there were mountains in Tampa Bay? There must be, because Montreal suddenly has to climb one. There have been 178 instances of a 3-0 lead in the playoffs, and only four times has the team that is behind rallied to win. The most recent example last year, when the Kings beat the Sharks.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

Latest from Apolitical

Go to Top