TAMPA — Imagine asking a trio of NHL rookies to go head-to-head against Sidney Crosby for an entire game.
That’s exactly what Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik were asked to do on Friday as Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper stuck the trio on the ice as much as possible when Crosby and his linemates came over the boards.
Though the so-called “Kid Line’’ was on the ice for the first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner, the three performed well for what might have been considered a monumental task for most lines in the league.
“For them to be in a situation, it was a huge responsibility for them, but I thought they did extremely, extremely well,’’ Cooper said.
Crosby finished with three assists — one came on a power play and the other on an empty-net goal — but he was held in check for the most part as he, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis combined for five shots on goal, one of which was on Kunitz’s empty-netter.
Johnson, Panik and Palat finished with three combined shots on goal, and Johnson was 8-for-12 (67 percent) against Crosby in the face-off circle.
“It was probably the biggest challenge of my life,’’ Johnson said of being handed the responsibility. “It was a lot of fun playing against them. We gave up that one goal there, so you want to take that away, but I thought we played pretty well besides that. ... That makes us better players, and I’m definitely a better player at the end of the game than I was at the start playing against those guys.’’
The one mistake the trio made came on the goal 6:53 into the game when Panik was hesitant on a backcheck just enough for Crosby to find Kunitz.
“I stop skating for a second and he got past me, so I couldn’t get him,’’ Panik said of Kunitz. “It was hard. They are really good players, but it was exciting. At the same time, you have to focus on every shift and be aware of those guys.’’
RW Dana Tyrell made his season debut Friday after being a healthy scratch Wednesday. The former second-round pick had 9:17 of ice time and two hits while playing on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen.
“I would’ve liked to have got him some more ice, but he had his legs moving and I thought that line was effective,’’ Cooper said. “They had a lot of offensive zone time. They were not rewarded for anything, but I thought he was solid.’’
D Radko Gudas missed his third consecutive game with an undisclosed upper-body injury suffered in his first-period fight on Nov. 22 in Anaheim. The team has not classified the injury as a concussion, and when asked about it on Friday, Cooper was noncommittal.
“That one I don’t know, but I’m mildly surprised he has not come back,’’ Cooper said. “But whatever it is, he’s not ready to go.’’
LW Ryan Malone, who blocked a shot on Nov. 22, also remains out. Though Cooper said it’s not expected that Malone will miss an extended amount of time, he said it figures to keep him out at least a couple of weeks.
C Tom Pyatt, who has been out with a broken collarbone since Oct. 8, could be cleared for full contact by next week, though that’s not a given at this point.
“We’ll see. He has to get one more tests on this, and then they will determine if he is cleared,’’ Cooper said.
The Lightning are holding a 36-hour ticket sale beginning Monday at 12:01 a.m., for all ticket levels to Thursday’s home game against Ottawa. All tickets, with the exception of VIP seating, are discounted 40 percent and available either at the box office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or at tampabaylightning.com.
Nuts and Bolts
D Keith Aulie was a healthy scratch. ... Crosby reached 700 career points with his third-period assist, attaining the milestone in his 497th career game. ... G Ben Bishop has stopped 104 of 107 shots (.972 save percentage) in his past three starts but has won only one of those games. ... The team will practice today at 11 a.m at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.