TAMPA – Timing was everything for Tyler Johnson whose first career hat trick hoisted the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night.
"It's one of those things where you have to be lucky to get it," Johnson said. "It was a good night for me, couldn't done it without my linemates and I was just happy to be in the right spot."
Johnson scored the game's opening tally, and with the Bolts holding onto a one-goal, third-period lead, the rookie scored twice to seal the victory.
"He was on it tonight and he primarily played against [Matt] Duchene's line and that's no cake walk," head coach Jon Cooper said. "To get three against them it's a pretty impressive effort. He played one heck of a game on both ends of the ice."
Not only did the Bolts see the Avs' reflection when looking in the mirror because of both clubs' similar successes this season, but Johnson and Nathan MacKinnon were also being matched up for their triumphs amongst this campaign's class of rookies.
Trailing MacKinnon by two points for the most points by a rookie heading into the evening, Johnson's three-point performance coupled with MacKinnon's helper on Colorado's second goal of the game, puts the possible Calder Trophy candidates tied at 34 points on that list.
"I wasn't really thinking about who I was going up against, that's a whole different thing," Johnson said. "I'm focusing on the team right now. Anytime we can get a win, anytime we play well, points are going to happen and that success leads to that."
"You're sitting there watching two of the best rookies in the league and fairly decent timing on Tyler's part to net three in this game," Cooper said.
Tampa Bay headed into the second period with some momentum, despite the game being scoreless after 20 minutes of play. Yet they started the middle frame sluggish, but eventually wore it off with three consecutive tallies on Avs netminder Sami Aittokallio.
The Lightning's first two tallies came from two Bolts who have never played against Colorado in their NHL career – Johnson and Mark Barberio – for a 2-0 lead.
Valtteri Filppula then put the Lightning ahead 3-0 by the midway point of the game by staying committed deep in Colorado territory. J.T. Brown fed a nice pass to Filppula, who was stationed near Aittokallio. He took a shot that the Avalanche netminder managed to save, but Filppula then used his leg to tap the rebound into the Colorado cage at 18:04.
Just 29 seconds after Filppula's 19th goal of the season, the Avs responded with the first of two tallies in a span of 30 seconds. The first came from a John Mitchell deflection off of Gabriel Landeskog's long shot. Rookie MacKinnon then helped bring the Avalanche within one. Passing to Maxime Talbot, his shot was not able to go off, and MacKinnon was able to re-gain the puck and send it to Tyson Barrie, who was able to finish it for a 3-2 game before the end of the frame.
Johnson finished the evening just as he started with the two unanswered tallies. The first of the pair came at 14:38, while the second came just more than two minutes later. Johnson, who is now riding a five- game point streak, has four goals and four assists in that span.
With a helper on the Johnson goal, Marty St. Louis extended his scoring streak to 10 games.
Johnson also became just the second rookie in Lightning franchise history to net a hat trick (Stamkos being the first to do so).
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay will practice at the Times Forum Monday morning before embarking on a four-game, 10-day road trip. Three of the four contests the Lightning compete in will be against Atlantic Division opponents, including their first meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. They will conclude the trip with their second and final meeting against the Minnesota Wild.