Bishop at his best as Bolts beat Leafs

by Gary Shelton on March 29, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Bishop makes on his 34 saves against Toronto Monday night./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Bishop makes on his 34 saves against Toronto Monday night./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

This is why you consider him. This is why he is in the running.

Yes, Ben Bishop has lost 19 games this year, too often because of his scorers' non-support. This, however, is why you can mention Bishop's name with the Vezina Trophy without blushing.

Did you see him Monday night? He was Sonny Corleone at the toll booth. He twisted here, and he contorted there, and he kept the puck out of the net. On a night that could have been Toronto's, in a game that could have gone the other way, Bishop would not allow it.

Thirty-four shots, many of them quality chances, and Bishop stood up

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Hedman scored the Lightning's third goal against Toronto./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hedman scored the Lightning's third goal against Toronto./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

to the onslaught. He was in front of the firing squad, and he would not blink. In a year when Bishop has had six shutouts, he has never been better. He has never been more resilient.

There for a while, it was almost a mistake when the Lightning would score. Mike Blunden snuck a goal in, and Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman. But this was Bishop's night. He is second in the NHL in goals against. He is second in save percentage. And you wonder: How could anyone be better?

“There are team shoutouts, and there are goalie shutouts,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Which one do you think that one was?”

It was terrific, in other words. It's like watching a pitcher throw a shutout when his team has four errors behind him and only two hits.

“We have 10 games left and there’s a long way to go to get ourselves in the playoffs,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But to be honest, I don’t know if we are here without Bish.’’

Certainly, the Bolts wouldn't have been in the winner's circle Monday. They were outshot by three shots in the first period, by 10 in the second, by three in the third. But every time, Bishop seemed to be in control. He was never frazzled, never threatened.

“He was hot," Hedman said." He was the difference maker tonight. We were lucky he stood on his head, and that’s what he has been doing all year. You know he has been our best player throughout the whole season, so he showed that again tonight and we really needed that effort. We’ll take these two points, but I’m pretty sure we will come into practice to watch some tape tomorrow and work on some things that we have to clean up.”

Only once before has Bishop stopped as many as 34 shots in a shutout. He is second in the NHL in shutouts.

“It’s up there as one of his best for sure. Some extremely high quality saves, which in return is lack of defensive coverage for us,” said Steven Stamkos, who had two assists. A lot of things we need to work on. We will take the win especially at this point of the year when points are critical, but can’t sit here and honestly say that was a great effort from us tonight. We have to thank (Bishop) for sure for giving us a chance to win this game ultimately.”

For the Bolts, there is nothing finer at this time of year than a team who has its goaltender clicking. The Bolts have two more games at home, then four more on the road. If Bishop can stay hot, you feel better about the Lightning's chances.

Blunden got the Lightning on the boards in the first period./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Blunden got the Lightning on the boards in the first period./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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