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Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop lifts team in Steven Stamkos’ absence

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Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning took the ice without their captain Thursday night.

This time, they skated in the early going as if they missed him.

The Lightning started slowly against Buffalo, which started strong in an attempt to end its six-game winless streak. But goaltender Ben Bishop stood up to the onslaught in a game where he stopped 32 of 33 shots to lead the Bolts to their third straight win.

“Let’s be honest, you’re never going to turn your back on winning three in a row, but it was the Ben Bishop show all the way,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He must have made six, 10 bell saves in the first few minutes of the game. I looked up at the shot clock and they had 14 shots in the first 10 minutes of the game. I don’t know what that does, but that’s on pace for like 75 shots on goal. That’s unacceptable.

“But the boys have played, this is three games in four nights, four in six, so they’ve kind of regrouped a little bit, and as that game went on, we got a little bit stronger. But you’ve got to thank Bish for keeping us in it early.”

It was the Lightning’s first game without Steven Stamkos, who had surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus. Stamkos is expected to miss four months with the injury.

“There’s always that kind of emotional first game when you’re without your guy,” Cooper said. “But it isn’t just one game. It’s months.”

The Lightning got goals from Nikita Nesterov, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Kucherov is now leading the NHL in points scored. It was Killorn’s first goal since Oct. 27.

“You’ve got to be really happy for guys that need to step up now that 91 is not in the lineup, and I was really happy for (Point) to get that one at the end,” Cooper said. “I thought (Tyler) Johnson had a really strong game, he was on the plus side of things, he was on the score sheet and the same with Killorn. We’re going to need guys. We’re going to need balanced scoring throughout the lineup, and that was good to see those guys did well.”

The Lightning plays a Saturday afternoon game (1 p.m.) in Philadelphia.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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