Johnson scores twice in Lightning's 5-0 rout of Columbus
By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Tyler Johnson and the Tampa Bay Lightning lit off some fireworks well ahead of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The NHL’s best team scored four goals in a span of 7:23 of the second period in a 5-0 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, sucking the energy out of a sellout crowd.
Johnson scored twice, and Andre Vasilevskiy stopped all 21 shots to get his ninth career shutout. Johnson’s second-period goals extended his point streak to 12 games, tied for the longest in the league this season. He’s got eight goals and 10 assists in that stretch.
Nikita Kucherov got his league-leading 25th goal of the season, and Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher also scored for the Lightning. Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman had two assists apiece.
Vasilevskiy didn’t have to work particularly hard in recording his league-leading fifth shutout of the season for the Lightning, who lead the NHL in wins and sit atop the Atlantic Division at 28-8-2.
“I truly believe he’s the best goalie in the world right now,” Johnson said. “He’s unbelievable. The saves he makes, it’s crazy. He’s a guy who works extremely hard, and he has no ceiling. He’s just going to keep getting better.”
Joonas Korpisalo had 30 saves for Columbus. He started in place of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled lately and was rested by coach John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets were 6-6-2 in December and have slipped to third in the Metropolitan Division.
Columbus outshot the Lightning 12-5 in the opening period. They had two power plays and played much of the frame in Tampa Bay’s zone but couldn’t capitalize. The best chance was a clean breakaway by Nick Foligno with 1:35 left, but his shot was knocked down by Vasilevskiy.
“I think we gave up two breakaways at dicey times of the game, and (Vasilevskiy) was there to make the save,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And when he does that for you, we get a little taller.”
Tampa Bay broke through in the second. Johnson scored his 11th goal of the season with a wrist shot from the right circle, set up nicely by Point. Johnson put in his second goal of the night from the other circle 4:49 into the second, assisted again by Point and Sergachev.
Tampa Bay kept up the flurry at 7:53 when Kucherov buried a wrist shot from the slot. Just short of a minute later, Conacher unloaded a one-timer from the left circle that beat Korpisalo.
The Lightning outshot the Blue Jackets 23-6 in the period.
“They smelled blood, let’s be honest,” said Foligno, the Columbus captain. “We didn’t do anything right in those 10, 12 minutes. We were just whacking pucks away, stick checking. It’s what we do to teams when we smell blood. We got it handed to us.”
Stamkos added the fifth goal 10:36 into the third on a power play, while the Blue Jackets managed just three on-target shots in the entire period.
The Lightning swept the three-game season series from the Blue Jackets.
The frustrated crowd booed the home team off the ice, many leaving before the postgame fireworks display.
NOTES: Kucherov has 16 points in the last 10 games. … Columbus F Boone Jenner played in his 300th career NHL game. … Tampa Bay D Anton Stralman returned after missing two games with a lower body injury. … Lightning G Louis Domingue was recalled from Syracuse (AHL) after Peter Budaj left Friday night’s loss to Philadelphia with a leg injury after a collision. … D Slater Koekkoek was scratched by Tampa Bay. … D Dean Kukan was a scratch for Columbus.
Tampa Bay: Plays at Toronto on Tuesday night.
Columbus: Plays at Dallas on Tuesday night.
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