As goalie Ben Bishop was being carried off the ice on a stretcher on Friday night, Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Alex Killorn skated over to Bishop, tapped his blocker and told him, “We got this.’’
Less than seven minutes later, Killorn started to make good on his promise.
The Lightning were still reeling from the loss of Bishop to a lower left leg injury when Killorn scored the first of Tampa Bay’s goals in its 3-1 Game 1 victory over the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.
That it was Killorn who gave the Lightning the spark they needed to bounce back shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Tampa Bay has lots of stars. Come playoff time, few shine brighter than Killorn.
Already this postseason the 6-foot-1, 202-pound forward has two game-winning goals, including the third-period series clincher in the 1-0 victory Tampa Bay posted to knock out Detroit in round one.
He had two game winners a year ago as well. Included among them was the third-period goal he scored to eliminate the Rangers and launch the Lightning into the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks.
“In our short term here, three playoff (seasons), we’ve had guys who on a number of occasions have risen above everybody,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said recently. “And (Tyler) Johnson has been given his accolades for that. So has Victor (Hedman) and (Nikita Kucherov). But you go down the list and the guy who’s not talked about much is Alex. But you see us get another big goal and it’s Killorn who scores it.’’
Big or small, Killorn just seems to have a knack for scoring playoff goals. Along with nine assists he had nine goals in 26 games last year after scoring 15 times in 71 games during the regular season.
So far this year, he has four playoff goals in 11 games, this after scoring 14 times in 81 regular season games. He’s also tacked on six playoff assists.
Yet what Killorn is most known for his is his Harvard education. Even now, he’s seldom mentioned when analysts break down the Lightning’s top snipers and scoring threats.
“Maybe this will change that,’’ Killorn said with a smile after scoring that series clincher against the Red Wings. “I doubt it. Harvard. That’s what I’m known for.’’
The Lightning know better, of course. Cooper especially. When he’s separated Ondrej Palat from Johnson and Kucherov on the Triplets line this season, he’s usually replaced him with Killorn, the fourth Triplet.
You can hardly tell the difference. Kucherov is tied with San Jose’s Joe Pavelski for first overall in playoff goal scoring with nine and Johnson is tied for fourth in playoff points with 13.
Down at No. 20, tied with the likes of Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino and teammate Jonathan Drouin, both of whom have received far more attention this postseason, is Killorn with 10 points.
It’s not all about scoring with Killorn, though. As his plus-11 rating (second best in the league) suggests, he’s as strong in his own end of the ice as he is in the offensive end.
“I do my job,’’ Killorn says. “And when it’s more intense, I think that’s when I’m playing my best. And really, I don’t need accolades. But you know what, you’ve got to stop me, too.’’