“It’s embarrassing,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said.
However, with New York’s two-man advantage winding down, a turnover by Martin St. Louis triggered a breakaway for Johnson.
“At the end of the day, its 3-2 going into the third after all that sloppiness,” McDonagh said. He had allowed five or more goals this season five times, three of which came against the Lightning.
The Lightning won two series and gained great experience in doing so, but they’re in the Eastern Conference Final. “Some people are more fortunate than others, but we have to have a belief that this is our year, and we need to play better”. But Game 2 was another showcase for Johnson, the undrafted 24-year-old who went through the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs, and then to the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals, without much fanfare.
Johnson scored short-handed, even strength and on the power play in tallying the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history and Tampa Bay got its high-scoring offense in gear.
Alex Killorn scored twice and Steven Stamkos added another to turn a tight game into a rout in the final period as Tampa Bay bounced back to level the best-of-seven series after a 2-1 loss in Game One.
The Lightning stepped up their game, and the Rangers couldn’t keep pace. After going 2-for-27 against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, the Lightning are 11-for-30 in the past eight games. “We’ve got to just get back to playing the way we know we can”. Well, we learned from that pretty quick, “Stamkos said. Johnson, who scored 29 times during the regular season, has registered four multi-goal performances in the playoffs – and each has followed a Tampa Bay defeat. Their potent power play and uncanny knack for taking advantage of every Rangers mistake led to an easy 6-2 win for the visitors.
The Rangers just kept gift-wrapping scoring chances.
Things weren’t quite right from the start for the Blue Shirts, as the Lightning went from two men down to one goal up. He was very good in the opening game as well, holding the Rangers to just two goals on 30 shots.
The best of those reasons is the first of his three goals, the unexpected 3-on-5 marker that might prove to be the most important of Johnson’s playoff goals should the Lightning capture the Stanley Cup. Lundqvist made 20 saves on 26 shots. It was also reviewed but this one stood. Still, Johnson would strike again only 11 minutes into the first period, hitting a power-play goal for his second in the game.
The Lightning were able to bounce back from their Game 1 loss, all on the shoulders of Johnson. Kovalchik needed help to get off the ice and was replaced by standby linesman Greg Devorski. Linesman Brad Kovachik left the game in the second period with a sprained knee after a collision along the boards.
Injured Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello skated on his own Monday morning, though he remains out indefinitely with a suspected head injury.
Don’t expect the Rangers’ tendencies to change as the East final continues with Game 2 Monday back at Madison Square Garden. Tampa defenseman Nikita Nesterov also was in the lineup, and Jonathan Marchessault and Vladislav Namestnikov were scratched….