Heading into Friday night’s game with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted nothing more than to bounce back from Tuesday’s sloppily played 2-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils, which ended their three-game win streak.
They did just that, on the strength of goaltender Ben Bishop‘s 31 save shutout and helped by goals from Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos (He’s everywhere these days) and opponent killer Alex Killorn.
For Bishop, this marked his fourth career shutout and second versus the Hurricanes. He blanked them 5-0 in his first Lightning start last April, just a few days after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cory Conacher. Unfortunately, that great showing didn’t last, as both he and Anders Lindback struggled down the stretch, contributing to the team’s final 2013 record.
However, last year isn’t this year. Bishop’s proven that much, seizing the opportunities he’s been given and performing extremely well so far. His 2.16 GAA and .924 save percentage in 10 starts is a big reason why the Lightning, at 9-4, sit near the top of both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Not bad when you consider how many rookies, or guys with limited NHL experience prior to this season, are logging regular minutes against some of the league’s best.
Seeing these players develop gives many the sense this team isn’t too far from being legitimate contenders year in and year out. The defense has shown some improvement, buoyed by the addition of hard-hitting defenseman Radko Gudas, and the goaltending is currently light years better than last season. Obviously, Bishop’s emergence has helped that situation.
Offense, meanwhile, has had its moments. One day, they’re firing on all cylinders in a complete blowout (see wins over the Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings in Tampa), then the next they refuse to shoot the puck on net, instead choosing to pass in search of the pretty, highlight-reel goals. Tuesday’s loss in New Jersey is a perfect example of the latter.
Now, the Lightning must take the momentum from this great road win and translate it back to home ice when the St. Louis Blues make their way into town for an interleague matchup Saturday night. While tonight’s victory was great, you can bet Bishop would love to beat the team that gave up on him a few years back even more.