As the Tampa Bay Lightning's star player continues to recover from a broken leg, a rookie has been showing star potential lately.
Johnson, an undrafted 23-year-old, saw limited playing time last season and had three goals and three assists in 14 games. With Tampa Bay needing offense while Steven Stamkos continues to work his way back to playing strength for the Canadian Olympic team and the rest of the season, Johnson has delivered of late centering a line with veteran Martin St. Louis and Ondrej Palat, totaling four goals and four assists in a career-best five-game point streak.
He posted his first career hat trick Saturday against Colorado to power the Lightning (31-16-5) to a 5-2 victory. Johnson is among the league's rookie leaders with 16 goals and 34 points.
"It's one of those things where you have to be lucky to get it," Johnson told the team's official website. "It was a good night for me, couldn't have done it without my linemates and I was just happy to be in the right spot."
Johnson hasn't found those right spots too often recently on the road, failing to score in his last seven games outside Tampa Bay. Defenseman Victor Hedman, who had three assists for the second straight game Saturday, has scored in each of his last two road contests and Martin St. Louis had an assist against Colorado to extend his point streak to 10 (eight goals, six assists) overall.
St. Louis has five goals and four assists in a six-game point streak versus the Maple Leafs, against whom he has totaled 50 points in 49 lifetime games.
The Lightning, who are opening a four-game trip, have scored 38 goals in winning nine of 11 on the road.
That may be a concern for the Maple Leafs, who have given up 12 goals in losing their last two to wrap up a four-game road trip with five of a possible eight points. Toronto (27-21-6) rallied from a three-goal second-period deficit Saturday to salvage a point with a 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg, with Phil Kessel scoring the equalizer with 1:33 left in regulation.
''We got down and were able to battle back and showed character,'' center James van Riemsdyk said. ''But again, we'll take the point.''
Jonathan Bernier may get the start in goal for Toronto after being saddled with a tough-luck loss Saturday. He stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief of James Reimer, who was pulled in the second period after yielding four goals in 19 shots.
Bernier has never faced the Lightning, while Reimer is 2-3-0 with a 2.93 goals-against average in five lifetime starts.
The new Atlantic Division rivals are meeting for the first time this season and will play twice before the Olympic break starts Feb. 9. The home team won all three games last season, with St. Louis posting the seventh of his eight career hat tricks in a 5-2 win in the most recent meeting April 24.
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