After his team lost to the Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in Tampa on Friday night, Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked if he might contemplate replacing goalie Ben Bishop for Game 5. After all, Bishop had surrendered 10 goals in the last two games.
Cooper scoffed at the question, calling it "asinine,'' and Bishop rewarded his coach's faith in him by pitching a shutout on Sunday night. The Lightning's 2-0 win sent them back to Tampa with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
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"I would say he looked really confident in the net, and we've watched this in the two previous series: As the series has gone on, the longer it's gone on, he's elevated his game," Cooper said of Bishop, who had never appeared in a playoff game before this season. "He's got confidence. The way he's playing the puck and he's making that first save -- he's not giving up rebounds -- he's just commanding the net. We feed off that."
Bishop made 26 saves to record his second shutout of the postseason, though none of the saves was particularly memorable. The 6-7 goalie mostly was just solid, playing behind an airtight defense that blocked 24 shots and killed four Rangers power plays.
"I think the penalty kill came up huge," he said. "Obviously, we weren't happy with the last couple games, how many scoring chances we were giving up. We looked at it, we talked about it and I thought we did a better job tonight. And obviously, guys coming up huge with blocked shots at the end."
Bishop enjoyed posting a shutout but said that despite Tampa Bay's 5-1 loss in Game 4, he never wavered in his self-confidence.
"I looked at the last game, obviously the first [goal] goes off the post and off my pad and in; the second one, a stick lands on my pad -- I'm not making excuses -- the third one goes off [Victor Hedman] and in," he said. "And obviously, you'd like to make one of those saves, but sometimes the puck doesn't bounce your way. And that's what happens when you play 100 games in a season. Some nights they're going to be good, some nights they're not going to be good. It's just one of those nights, that's the way I took it, and I wanted to come out and play the same way. I didn't look too much into it."
The Lightning was outshot 6-4 in a tight-checking first period, and the penalty-killers snuffed back-to-back Ranger power plays to keep the game scoreless. They killed another penalty early in the second before Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos scored goals 4:53 apart to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead. The Lightning then shut down the Rangers in the third.
Bishop's shutout was even more impressive given that he had a scary moment in warm-ups, taking a shot from teammate Nikita Nesterov in the groin. His performance was unaffected once the game started, though. Bishop said with a grin, "Good thing there's some time in between" the warmups and the game.