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Resilient Lightning find a way to beat Pittsburgh without Ben Bishop

By now, would you really expect another injury, even to an important player, to slow them down?

The resilient Tampa Bay Lightning, already without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, lost goaltender Ben Bishop with 7:35 left in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bishop was taken from the ice in a stretcher. Early X-rays showed there was no structural damage.

“I think a lot of that comes from last year and the confidence we have in this group coming in,” said forward Ryan Callahan. “We’ve that mentality it’s the next guy up. We have a deep team, and that’s been a big key for us.”

The Lightning, a slight underdog in the series because of the powerful Pittsburgh offense, scored one goal in the first period on a nice move by Alex Killorn. In the second period, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin also scored.

Patrick Hornqvist scored for Pittsburgh.

Andrei Vasilevskiy came in for the Bolts and stopped 25 of 26 shots to get the 3-1 win.

“We lead the league in penalties,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s something we have to correct.”

Cooper was optimistic that X-rays showed no serious damage to Bishop’s knee. He pointed to the experience of Vasilevskiy, who is only 21 years old.

“I know it was a year ago, but he’s already played in a Stanley Cup Final,” Cooper said. “There are all kind of cliches in this game about working hard, but in his case, it’s true. He’s a rock.”

The Lightning and Penguins play again on Sunday, then turn to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay is 9-2 in these playoffs.

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Lightning learns schedule, but will be underdogs vs. Pittsburgh

The Tampa Bay Lightning have their times and dates.

Now, they just need their results against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Lightning open in Pittsburgh Friday and Monday with both games at 8 p.m. The Bolts came home on Wednesday and Friday. Game Five would be on Sunday. The Lightning would be the host of Game Six on Sunday, May 22. Game Seven would be Tuesday, May 24.

Every game starts at 8 p.m.

The Bolts beat Pittsburgh in all three games the teams played this year. But the Penguins finished higher in the standings and hold a home-ice advantage.

The matchups.

Defense: If the Lightning can get Anton Stralman back, and he doesn’t have any rust, this should be an advantage for Tampa Bay. But Pittsburgh isn’t bad. The Penguins allowed only two fewer goals than the Lightning all season.

Edge: Lightning.

Offense: Not many teams can match the firepower the Penguins have with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh is the top team in the playoffs. The Penguins scored 245 goals this season, third in the league in scoring.

Edge: Pittsburgh.

Goaltender: The Lightning have to hope Ben Bishop can slow down the Penguins’ offense. Bishop won 35 games in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs. The Penguins have turned things over to  Matt Murray (seven playoff wins), who has starred.

Edge: Lightning.

Special teams: Pittsburgh has an excellent power play in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has the best penalty kill.

Edge: Even.

Coaching: Jon Cooper’s team was second in the league last year, and will be at least tied for third this season. That gives him an edge over Mike Johnston.

Edge: Tampa Bay.

The problem with a matchup box, however, is that all edges are not created equal. Pittsburgh’s edge on offense is more distinct than Tampa Bay’s on defense. The Penguins are deeper, more talented.

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Lightning to face Penguins in Eastern Conference Final series

The Tampa Bay Lightning got their dance partner Tuesday night.

The Lightning will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh closed out the Washington Capitals in Game Six with a 4-3 overtime win.

To a lot of people, the Penguins are probably the favorites in the series. They have home ice after totalling 104 points. The Lightning had 97.

But Tampa Bay beat Pittsburgh in all three of their meetings this year. The Bolts won 4-0, 6-1 and 5-2.

In the first game, Anton Stralman and Steve Stamkos, both out injured, scored the Lightning’s first two goals. In fact, Stralman scored in all three of the Lightning victories.

In the third game, Vlad Namestnikov had a hat trick. Ben Bishop was 2-0, allowing five goals on 69 shots.

The league has yet to announce which nights the games will be played.

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Could Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman return for Lightning?

Do the Tampa Bay Lightning have reenforcements coming?

As good as the Bolts have been, dismissing two teams in 10 games, they will face their biggest challenge against either Washington or Pittsburgh, both of whom were better in the regular season than they were.

But what if the Bolts get Steven Stamkos back?

And what if they get Anton Stralman back?

For Tampa Bay, there was no need to rush either player against the Islanders. Not when they won four straight. But both Stamkos and Stralman have been seen hanging around the team’s locker room. A return date for either might not be that far off.

The Lightning could use both. Stamkos was once again the Lightning’s leading scorer with 36 goals. Stralman was a steady defensive player. And the loss of both has provided extra minutes for others to have to fill. With them both, the Lightning are deeper, more dangerous.

Who knows? It could be enough to get the Bolts past another round and into their second straight finals.

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Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop leads Lightning to Eastern Conference finals

He is in charge of turning off the lights.

He is in charge of hammering in the final nail in the coffin, in charge of stepping on the necks, in charge of slamming the door.

He is Ben Bishop, and what he does is end things.

Bishop, the goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning, did it again Sunday. Once again, the Lightning had a chance to send an opponent home, and once again, he provided the directions. Bishop stopped all 28 shots in a 4-0 victory, suffocating the New York Islanders in their five-game NHL Series and sending Tampa Bay to its second straight Eastern Conference finals.

For Bishop, it was old hat. The Lightning has now won five playoff series in the last two seasons, and he’s starred in all of them. He’s thrown four shutouts in the five games, and he’s allowed one goal in 134 shots.

“Two words,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And both of them start with ‘B.’”

After two overtime wins in New York, the Lightning was fairly hungry to close out the Islanders. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Victor Hedman and Brian Boyle. They made it 3-0 in the second period on Hedman’s second goal, then closed it out on the ninth goal of the playoffs (in 10 games) by Nikita Kucherov.

For Tampa Bay, it was an impressive feat. None of the major teams in Tampa Bay have ever reached back-to-back conference titles. That this one did it after losing Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman to injuries was notable.

“I’m not surprised,” Cooper said. “Did I think we’d get there in 10 games? No chance. Do I believe we could advance? No question. You have to be a special group to weather this in terms of what we have. I’m sure not a lot of people were checking our box to move on.”

The Islanders were never able to get going. Star forward John Tavares was shut out for the fourth straight game, and the Islanders lost their fourth straight game.

Hedman was a workhorse again, playing 27:43 of the game, the most of any skater.

In the next round, the Bolts will play either Pittsburgh (who they are 3-0 against) or Washington (0-3).

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Lightning beats Islanders again for 3-1 lead in playoff series

The Tampa Bay Lightning is one game away from returning to the NHL’s Conference Finals.

The Lightning won its second consecutive overtime victory in Brooklyn, beating the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime. The Bolts lead 3-1 and can close the series out on Sunday at Amalie Arena.

Once again, Tampa Bay started slowly, being outplayed in the first period and outshot. They fell behind 1-0 on a goal by Kyle Okposo. That lead held until the third period, when – who else? – Nikita Kucherov tied the game on a one-timer 7:49 into the third period.

It was Kucherov’s eighth goal of the playoffs, which leads the NHL.

“He’s proving he’s not a one-hit wonder,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He continues to amaze.”

Ben Bishop had his moments, too, stopping 27 of 28 shots.

The Lightning took the win on a deep shot by Jason Garrison only 1:34 into overtime.

“He’s got a bomb,” said Cooper.

Cooper was asked what his team needed to do in its next game. “We need to realize it starts at 7 instead of 8,” said Cooper, unaware the game actually starts at 3. Still, he has a point about the Bolts getting off to a slow start.

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Lightning’s Brian Boyle set to play the villain against Islanders

The noise will start when he enters the building. It will continue through warmups. It will linger until game time.

Brian Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning has become public enemy No. 1.

And furthermore, boo.

Oh, he wasn’t guilty of a cheap shot. Even the NHL shrugged when it saw footage of his hit on Thomas Hickey in Game Three. He was cleared before lunch, no matter how loudly New York Islanders’ coach Jack Capuano complained. Of course, Capuano is the coach who blew a lead with 38 seconds to go while at home. Don’t you think he wants the public to be talking about something else?

But it won’t matter. Boyle has become a place for the Islanders to vent their frustrations, their scorn, their anger. He is Darth Vader. He is Hannibal Lecter. He is Justin Abdelkader.

In a way, it’s right out of pro wrestling. Fans love a villain.

Remember the way the fans of the Philadelphia Flyers booed former Lightning coach John Tortorella. It’s going to be like that.

For Boyle, a role player with some grit, it’s going to be a little different. He played in New York where, like here, he was known for being a good teammate, but not a star. He has scored only twice in the playoffs. Only 13 times all year.

Tonight, however, he gets it from the cheap seats (provided there are any in the playoffs). Capuano will doubtless use it as an excuse that those roughnecks from Tampa are rampaging through Brooklyn. Grrr. Hey, why not?

If you’re Capuano, it beats having people talk about your coaching.

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Islanders coach Jack Capuano upset about Brian Boyle hit

Right about now, we need John Tortorella.

We need old fire-and-fury Torts to walk up to the microphone and give it a few, well-chosen words with Jack Capuano in mind.

We need him to lean forward and say the familiar words.

“Shut your yap,” he needs to say sweetly.

Did you get a load of Capuano after the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders. He sort of shrugged off the fact his team blew three different leads. He didn’t want to say much about blowing a lead with 38.6 seconds to go. He didn’t want to talk about letting a home game slip away.

Instead, he wanted to bristle about a blow that Brian Boyle delivered to Thomas Hickey – the same Hickey who had applied a crunching hit on Jonathan Drouin. The league ruled that neither Boyle nor Hickey would face a hearing.

“It’s a direct shot to the head,” Capuano said. “I mean, (Boyle) is probably going to get suspended a game. That’s what I mean. The whole game, it shouldn’t come down to that. The referee is standing right there. I’ve watched it numerous times now. Those are the types of hits that we’re trying to eliminate from our game.

“It’s just too bad that it had to end that way. It’s frustrating because it’s right there. The play is right there. He’s looking right at it. The league can look at it if they want, but I’ve watched it four or five times, maybe more, and it’s just frustrating it had to end in that particular way with a head shot.

It just happens. I don’t think Boyle’s looking to hurt anybody. Maybe he was. I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s a head. It’s clearly a head shot, and it determined the outcome of the game. We should have been on the power play.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper saw it differently.

“I don’t have the sheet in front of me, but how many hits were in that game? Seventy? Eighty hits? I would say there were 15 harder than the one Boyle was involved in, and one that was a really hard hit,” Cooper said. “If you watched that game, to me, that was a mild hit compared to some of the banging that went on in that hockey game.

“The problem is with Boyle, he’s 6-foot-7, so when he’s going up against guys, I’m not sure how tall Hickey is, but he’s definitely not 6-foot. Those are tough situations, but at no point, in my opinion, I don’t think there was anything wrong with that. It was two guys trying to make a hockey play, and fortunately, it worked out for us.”

Boyle didn’t seem worried about being suspended. “I don’t think so. I’ve never had anything like that in my career. At this point, I really don’t have any control.”

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Lightning captures wild playoff game against Islanders, 5-4

Comebacks. Overtime. Players returning from injury.

Seventy-two saves. Seventy-eight hits. Pulled goalies that result in goals.

Blown leads. Furious rallies. Hits that will be argued about for days.

Yeah, this hockey game had it all. The Tampa Bay Lightning, somehow, came from behind to beat the New York Islanders, 5-4, in a game that felt a lot like a series highlight reel. The Lightning now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.

The Lightning trailed with 38 seconds to go, but Jonathan Druin – shelved by an injury earlier in the game – found Nikita Kucherov for the winning goal. Goalie Ben Bishop had been pulled at the time.

Then, 2:38 into overtime, Brian Boyle scored the game-winner to give the Lightning its lead.

New York coach Jack Capuono repeated several times that he thought Boyle was guilty of a blow to Thomas Hickey’s head before his winning goal. “We should have been on a power play,” said Capuono. Boyle took a missed shot by Victor Hedman bounding off the backboard.

Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper disagreed. “What were there? Seventy hits? Eighty? There were 15 that were bigger than that hit.”

The Lightning trailed much of the night, falling behind 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 before coming from behind.

For the Bolts, Kucherov now has eight goals in the post-season. Drouin has eight points, seven of them on assists.

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Lightning evens playoff series as Tyler Johnson scores two goals

Evidently, the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t done yet.

The Lightning got back into their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday, winning a 4-1 game that sends them to Brooklyn with the series tied 1-1.

For the Lightning, it is nothing new. Tampa Bay is 6-0 in Game Twos over the last two years. “That just means we should do better in Game Ones,” joked coach Jon Cooper.

The Lightning seemed to grow stronger in this one, taking a quick 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin. Victor Hedman made it 3-1 in the second period, and Johnson hit an empty netter to finish the scoring.

“Our backs were against the wall,” Cooper said. “We needed this one.”

For the Lightning, one of the bounceback players was goaltender Ben Bishop, who was pulled from Game One after giving up four goals.

“I don’t think any goaltender is on A-plus game every night,” Cooper said. “Bish is there 99 percent of the time for us.”

Bishop stopped all but one of 31 shots.

“I thought the team played really well,” Bishop said “We are going to have to continue like this. We saw what we did wrong in Game 1, and I thought we did a better job possessing the puck, getting pucks deep, not really feeding their transitions with turnovers. Obviously, when we don’t do all those things, we play pretty well.”

The Lightning games at the Islanders are Tuesday and Friday.

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