Johnson powers Lightning past Blackhawks 4-2
The top line for the Lightning was much better than the leading trio for Chicago.
Johnson scored twice, Kucherov had three assists and the Lightning beat the Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night.
The Lightning (16-6-1) remained on top of the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Buffalo.
The Blackhawks dropped to 2-4-2 under new coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over on Nov. 6. Colliton has been playing Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad together in search of more offense, but Chicago is still struggling to score.
Johnson, Kucherov and Point got the better of Toews, Kane and Saad for much of the night. Tampa Bay’s top line combined for three goals and seven points.
“They’ve been playing really, really well since being put together and creating offense,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It was an extremely big test tonight to go against that big line they’ve got of world-class players and they did a great job and it set the tone for the game for us.”
The Toews line was on the ice for Tampa Bay’s opening three goals.
“You’ve got to limit the mistakes and protect the house around your net,” Toews said. “We didn’t do that. Especially myself, being out there for three goals against.”
Johnson scored twice in the first period, including 29 seconds into the game with an open shot from the slot. He scored his ninth of the season at 7:15, converting a quick one-timer off a feed from Point.
“They are tremendous players,” Johnson said of the Toews line. “But I’ve got Point and Kuch on my line, so I feel pretty good about that as well.”
Point made it 3-0 at the 10:05 mark with his 15th goal. After Chicago responded with Anisimov’s first goal since Oct. 27, Callahan capped the wild first period with his first goal since Oct. 21, also against Chicago.
Toews got his 11th with 1:11 left in the second period, but the Blackhawks came up empty on two power-play chances in the third.
“They were tough to handle,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. “They came out hard. They’ve done that several times this season. We needed to be better. We definitely played better as the game went on. The compete level was better.”
NOTES: Lightning D Anton Stralman (upper body) and LW Ondrej Palat (lower body) remained out with injuries. Both are skating with the team and considered day to day. … Chicago rookie D Henri Jokiharju, second on the team with 10 assists, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. … Kucherov extended his point streak to five games. He has two goals and 10 assists in that span. … Toews extended his point streak to six games. … Tampa Bay rookie D Erik Cernak finished with two assists for his first career multipoint game.
Blackhawks: At Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Lightning: Host New Jersey Devils on Sunday.