Cooper: I'm happy to win, but I 'might be a little happier' for Johnson
Jon Cooper effusively praised Tyler Johnson after the forward scored twice to help the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 and take a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Friday.
"There's a reason Tyler Johnson's trophy case is fairly full," the Lightning head coach said postgame. "It's because he's an ultimate team player. He's selfless, and there was a time in this organization when we needed to take another step and Tyler Johnson was one of the leaders of that. He's just carried that on for years now."
"As teams change and they evolve, and the salary cap (comes into play) ... guys are coming up. But there was one thing we never lost faith in: Tyler Johnson," Cooper continued. "He never lost faith in himself. And roles change, you have to adapt, and nobody's done it better than Tyler. ... I couldn't be more happy for somebody, and I know that his teammates were for his performance tonight, and being rewarded for everything he's gone through.
"I'm extremely happy for the win," he said. "I might be a little happier for Tyler Johnson."
Johnson went unclaimed in October after the Lightning placed him on waivers. The veteran center will turn 31 on July 29. He's often considered an expendable player in trade and expansion-draft chatter because of his $5-million cap hit and diminished offensive production.
Cooper and Johnson both joined the Lightning in 2012-13, and the two have been with the club since. They won the Cup together last season after reaching the championship round in 2015.
Johnson, who stands just 5-foot-8, is a two-time 29-goal scorer. Tampa Bay signed him as a free agent in March 2011 after he went undrafted.