Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning's Bishop holds off former team in 3-2 victory
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop ran through quite the spectrum of emotions the past seven days.
Heading into the seventh day, he admitted those emotions were at a peak as he prepared to face off against his former team, less than a week after being traded to Tampa Bay from Ottawa.
“I didn't know what to expect, facing a former team for the first time in my career. … I haven't felt like that before a game in a long time. It was kind of a weird feeling,'' Bishop said. “I was super excited, a little nervous and I really wanted to win this game and tonight was special because I was with those guys a week ago and now playing against them.''
Bishop was able to settle down and settle into the game quickly before finishing with 31 saves to lead the Lightning to a 3-2 victory against Ottawa in front of an announced crowd of 17,323 at The Forum.
Tampa Bay improved to 5-0-1 in its past six home games but remained eight points out of a playoff spot with nine games remaining.
Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal with 5:04 left for his 26th of the season to stay in a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. Vinny Lecavalier had a goal and an assist as Tampa Bay scored two power-play goals for the first time since March 2. Marty St. Louis registered a pair of assists for points 900 and 901 in his career, while Pierre-Cedric Labrie registered his first career goal.
For Bishop, it was the best way to cap a week that saw him make his Lightning debut with a 45-save shutout, then suffer back-to-back losses over the weekend before making his home debut against his former team in a span of seven days.
“This felt really, really, really-really good,'' Bishop said. “Big two points for our team. First game in this building as a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning so I wanted to get a big win for the fans and it was nice that it was against my old team.''
It also was a key win for his new team, as the Lightning try to push forward despite nearly insurmountable odds to make a postseason charge, a fate that was all but sealed with losses in New York and Washington over the weekend.
But the Lightning showed they are not willing to fold up the tent.
“I know the odds are against us, and I'm sure you can tell them not to look at the standings, but they know what is going on,'' head coach Jon Cooper said “They have every reason to sit here and say, 'This isn't going to work so I don't have to lay out to block the shot, I don't have to get the puck out, I don't have to go to the net.' But they are not doing that. If that is going to continue in this situation right now, this is a great foundation to build on.''
Tampa Bay could have folded considering how Ottawa scored both of its goals, each coming off pucks that popped into the air and ended up in the net — first by Daniel Alfredsson batting the puck out of the air for a 1-0 lead and another that Bishop couldn't corral with his glove that ended up on the stick of Guillaume Latendresse 21 seconds into the third for a tying goal.
“Those are tough goals, and the past three games have been fluky goals,'' Bishop said. “It's one of those things you have to battle through and the law of averages say it will eventually go your way.''
Sandwiched between the two Ottawa goals, Labrie found a rebound that squirted inside the far post 2:35 into the second, while Lecavalier scored a 5-on-3 goal for his second in the past two games at 4:28 of the second.
That set up Stamkos to take a crisp cross-ice pass through the crease to slam home the game-winner on the power play and give Bishop a night to remember.
“Anytime there is a little extra motivation for somebody who wants to win probably more than anyone in here, and he played a great game again and that's what we are going to come to expect from him,'' Stamkos said of Bishop. “He's a great goalie and for us to win and be successful, he's going to have to be successful and he was again tonight.''
email@example.com (813) 259-7835 Twitter: erlendssonTBO