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

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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).

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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