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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).

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Lightning loses first game of series to Islanders as Ben Bishop pulled

The Tampa Bay Lightning started off their second-round playoff series Wednesday night by stubbing their collective toe.

The Lightning wasted their home ice advantage in dropping a 5-3 decision to the New York Islanders, including two goals in two minutes and 29 seconds.

For all the discussion about the team’s five days off since the Detroit series, coach Jon Cooper pointed out that the first few minutes could not have gone better for the Lightning. They scored 3:05 into the game on a goal by Ondrej Palat and seemed to be sailing.

But Travis Hamonic scored to tie the game with 5:44 to play in the first period, and then Shane Prince scored twice at the end of the period. (Obligatory Prince reference: When Bolts cry.)

The Islanders scored a fourth goal in the second period by John Tavares.

“What hurt us was giving up two goals in the last 2 ½ minutes,” said Cooper. “It’s 1-1, and you’re plugging along. Then you go into intermission and it’s 3-1. It burned us. We gave up a goal with three seconds left. We were kind of soft in those last few minutes.”

The Lightning pulled within 4-3 in the third period, but an empty netter sealed the game for the Islanders.

“Obviously, it’s not the first time this has happened,” said goaltender Ben Bishop, who was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 13 shots. “We have to worry about the game behind, not this one.”

Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay tries to draw even in the series Saturday.

“There’s a reason it’s a seven-game series,” said Tyler Johnson.

Who has the edge: Breaking down the Lightning-Islanders series

Who wins?

The New York Islanders have John Taveres. The Tampa Bay Lightning have Victor Hedman. The Lightning won their first round in five games. The Islanders won three overtime games, two that went to double overtime.

These teams play at Amalie Arena tonight (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.) before traveling to the Islanders.

So which team has the advantage?


The Islanders have Taveres, who will be the most talented man on the ice. He led the Islanders to their upset of the Florida Panthers, and he’s been difficult to deal with when the teams have played. The Lightning counters with its latest version of the Triplets: Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored 10 of the team’s 12 goals in the Red Wings series. For Tampa Bay to succeed, it will need scoring from other parts of the roster.

Edge: New York.


If Anton Stralman can get back quickly, this becomes an edge for the Lightning. Matt Carle has played well – he was scratched at times this season – but there is doubt if he can hold up for 20 minutes a night. Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy lead the way for the Islanders, who rallied in three of their four wins.

Edge: New York.


This is the Lightning’s biggest edge, and in hockey, it’s the most important edge to have. Bishop has been spectacular for most of the year, and a fan can still scratch his head and wonder how he lost 21 games this season. Thomas Greiss had an impressive first round against the Panthers, but his body of work doesn’t match Bishop’s.

Edge: Lightning

Special teams

The Bolts need to stay out of the box, but man, have they played well when the other team had an advantage. Against Detroit, they stopped 24 of 25 power plays. The Lightning’s own power play sputters at times. Getting a couple of goals during the series would help.

Edge: Lightning


The Lightning have reinforcements coming. Stralman, and perhaps Stamkos, could rejoin the team soon. Meanwhile, a rested Tampa Bay has home ice advantage.

Edge: Lightning


Jon Cooper hasn’t had a smooth ride this season. He was blamed in the contract negotiations with Stamkos, with the handling of Jonathan Drouin. He has lost players to injuries. It’s been much more of a struggle this year than last. But Cooper wins, as the fact he’s into the second round shows. Jack Capuano has New York in the second round for the first time in more than two decades.

Edge: Lightning.

Lightning to face Islanders in next round of NHL Playoffs

There will be no Sunshine series in the NHL Playoffs.

Instead, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to face a team that, frankly, has given it a hard time.

The New York Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers Sunday in double overtime and move on to face Tampa Bay. Games 1 & 2, still undecided, will be at Amalie Arena. Three and four will be in New York. If the teams need it, Games 5 and 7 will be in Tampa.

The Islanders, with John Tavares, took two of three games this season from the Lightning.Tavarez scored five goals and had four assists in the six games against Florida.

The Islanders took 50 shots on goal against the Panthers.

The Lightning beat New York in five games on the way to their Stanley Cupin 2004. Tampa Bay is hoping to get defenseman Anton Stralman back at some point in the series from a broken leg.

Lightning eliminates Red Wings behind 34-save effort by Bishop

Ben Bishop has rarely looked taller. He has rarely looked wider. He has rarely played better.

Bishop stopped 34 shots in a 1-0 shutout over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a first-series win (4-1) over the Wings. In the second period alone, he stopped 14 shots including four breakaways.

The Bolts won with 1:43 left to play when Alex Killorn rushed the net, took a pass from Ryan Callahan and jammed it past goalie Petr Mrazek.

“You want your goalie to keep you in it,” Killorn said, “but I’m not sure he didn’t win it.”

It was the 129th game that Bishop has won in net for the Bolts. Twenty of them have been shutouts. In the playoffs, Bishop has four shutouts, three of them in series-clinching games. In this series, he had a 1.61 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

“You know sometimes you are feeling it, I guess,” Bishop said. “I was able to make a couple saves there and keep the team in the game, then obviously in the third a big goal by (Killorn).”

The Lightning actually didn’t play particularly well until Killorn’s game-winner. They had 17 giveaways.

“If you give our team a C and you give Detroit an A,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, “the problem is that Bish got an A+, and it trumped an A.”

The penalty killing also played well again for the Lightning, which stopped five power plays and finished the series killing 24 of 25 power plays by Detroit. All of which set up Killorn’s game-winner.

“It was a play where (Mrazek) makes a goalie play and Callahan kind of jumped him and once I saw that (Mrazek) was out of his net I was just trying to gain position in front knowing that if (Callahan) could get it to me I could probably put it in.”

Tampa Bay now waits to find out whether Florida or the Islanders wins their series, which is tied 2-2.

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