Tyler Johnson scored two goals in his latest stellar performance and the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, forcing a Game 7 in their first-round playoff series.
Johnson and Jason Garrison scored in the first period, and Johnson added another goal in the second to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead. Tomas Tatar scored twice for Detroit, but Alex Killorn answered with an unassisted goal with 5:09 remaining, and Cedric Paquette added an empty-netter.
Ben Bishop made 22 saves for the Lightning, who led the NHL in goals during the season but had been struggling to score on the Red Wings and goalie Petr Mrazek in this series. Mrazek made a sensational save on Brian Boyle in the second period, but Tampa Bay had already taken a 2-0 lead by that point.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper had suggested the day before the game that Detroit was stretching the rules a bit after he was asked by a reporter about interference. Tampa Bay found enough space on its first goal to go the length of the ice in only a few seconds. Defenseman Victor Hedman, standing near his own net, hit Nikita Kucherov at the opposite blue line with a perfect stretch pass.
Kucherov immediately flipped the puck to Johnson, who came into the zone with a head of steam and calmly beat Mrazek.
Steven Stamkos, who was taking a decent amount of heat for a quiet series, set up the second goal by waiting patiently with the puck around the top of the right circle and then passing to Garrison in the slot.
Boyle nearly made it 3-0 early in the second. Alone in front of the goal, he stickhandled around Mrazek, only to have the goalie deny him with perhaps the save of the postseason so far. Mrazek reached his stick back and blocked Boyle's shot out of midair to keep the deficit at two.
But it didn't stay that way for long. Johnson again was left with too much space in the Detroit zone, skating in with only one Red Wings player in the vicinity. His sixth goal of this postseason tied Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis for the league lead.
The Red Wings had a two-man advantage for 18 seconds later in the second, and although they didn't score during the 5-on-3, the Lightning couldn't kill off all the power-play time. Tatar beat Bishop high with a wrist shot to make it 3-1.
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall knocked Kucherov's helmet off near the end of the second period with a high hit, but the Tampa Bay forward was able to play on.
Tatar's second goal came when he gathered the puck in front of Bishop and stuffed it under him, making it 3-2 with 18:21 left. The Red Wings did their best to even it up, but Killorn broke in alone and beat Mrazek high with a backhand with 5:09 to play.
Paquette's goal into an empty net came with just under a minute remaining — while Detroit was on a power play and had two extra skaters with the goalie pulled.
NOTES: The Red Wings' most recent series win was in the first round in 2013 when they beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games. They lost to Chicago in seven in the following round, and this will be their first Game 7 since. ... Tampa Bay last played a Game 7 in 2011, when the Lightning went the distance to beat Pittsburgh in the first round but lost in seven to Boston in the conference finals.