The unit of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn has been largely responsible for giving their club a 2-0 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings, with Game Three going on Sunday.
If the Red Wings want to get back in this thing, they’ll have to find a way to contain Tampa’s top line. Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn have accounted for seven of their team’s eight goals, plus they have a total of 15 points so far.
“[We have to] not give them too much space,” Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou said. “We’re giving them too much time and too much space, and they can make plays when they have that. You take that space away, and it’s a whole different game.”
Of course, taking that space away is easier said than done.
With the series shifting to the Joe Louis Arena, Detroit will have to play some containment hockey. They’ll also have to make more of their chances and they’ll need to rattle Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, which may well be a problem. The 29-year-old from Denver has been cool under pressure so far, with a 2.00 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.
The Lightning have been feeling the pinch, despite outscoring the Red Wings 8-4 over two games.
And the difference, at least from a statistical standpoint, cycles back to that pesky Triplets line.
“You’re happy that [the Killorn-Johnson-Kucherov line] has scored seven of our eight goals,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “The problem is they’ve scored seven of our eight goals, so we’re going to have to get some secondary scoring. Not that we haven’t had our chances, but ultimately other guys are going to have to score.”
J.T. Brown will not be one of those to provide secondary scoring, as he’s out indefinitely with an upper body injury.
Brian Boyle is the only other Lightning player with a goal in the series and one has to imagine what the scoreboard would look like if Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman were in the hunt. For now, Tampa needs to get players like Valtteri Filppula and even Jonathan Drouin on the scoreboard. The latter has been a pleasant surprise; he’s shooting the puck well and getting some good looks.
But obviously, wins are wins and the Lightning will take the roaring success of the Triplets line as long as they can. Johnson leads the way with six points in two games, while Kucherov has five points and Killorn has four.