Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2 preview
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET
Three of the Tampa Bay Lightning's most productive scorers from last season's run to the Stanley Cup Final were clicking again at the start of this year's playoffs.
The performance of the Lightning's top line was likely particularly sweet for center Tyler Johnson after he labored through an injury-plagued campaign.
Johnson will try to send Tampa Bay to a 2-0 lead against the visiting Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
Johnson, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov combined for seven of Tampa Bay's nine points in a 3-2 victory Wednesday. Kucherov had two goals and an assist, and Killorn netted the go-ahead score with 11:08 remaining.
"It definitely helps having that experience, and I think you could add all the adversity we went through this year," Johnson said. "This group's been through a lot together. We're a family. We rely on one another, and we know that everyone's going to stick up for one another."
Johnson had a pair of assists, one more than he recorded in his final seven regular-season games. The fourth-year pro had 14 goals and 38 points in 2015-16 after registering 53 goals and 122 points in his previous two seasons.
He missed 13 games with various ailments but showed he could be poised to return to the productivity that made him the Lightning's leading scorer (13 goals, 10 assists) in last year's march to the Eastern Conference title.
Kucherov had 10 goals and 12 assists while Killorn matched star Steven Stamkos' 18 points. The Lightning could use a productive top line with Stamkos out for at least one month and possibly the whole playoffs because of surgery to remove a blood clot near his collarbone.
Defenseman Anton Stralman will miss at least this series because of a fractured left leg.
"I think it's fortunate that we've had a couple of games to learn how to play without them," Killorn said. "They're such huge parts of our team, and I think tonight a lot of guys stepped up in all sorts of ways. That's how it's going to have to be."
Tampa Bay had registered just one Game 1 victory in its previous five playoff series under coach Jon Cooper and went ahead 2-0 one time as well, last year's East semifinals against Montreal. The Lightning earned those wins on the road and went 6-7 on their own ice in the 2015 postseason.
"I think it's huge. I think when you look at last year, a lot of the first games we went down, and it's just an uphill climb," Killorn said. "To get that first win, it's great momentum."
Tampa Bay alternated losses and wins with Detroit in last year's opening round before taking Games 6 and 7. The Red Wings will try to continue that back-and-forth pattern while shutting down the Lightning's revamped "Triplets" line.
"They're great in open ice. They can make plays in small areas. So we've got to make sure we do our best that we can of taking away time and space," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've got to make sure our defensive positioning is a little better than it was. We've got to make it harder to get to our net."
The Red Wings will look to end a four-game losing streak in Tampa Bay that dates to last season's Game 7.
Ben Bishop has been in net for each of those games for the Lightning, posting a 1.25 goals-against average after making 34 saves Wednesday.
"We know he's a really good goalie," Blashill said. "But like any good goalie, if we do a real good job of getting that presence and do a good job of getting the seconds, we have the opportunity for success."