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A month to remember for goalie Ben Bishop

Bishop looks to extend his win streak to six tonight against the Flames

by Bryan Burns /

The Edmonton Oilers featured three scorers in Leon Draisaitl (22 goals), Connor McDavid (20) and Patrick Maroon (20) with over 20 goals on the season.

Edmonton's offense was averaging 2.80 goals per game, 12th best in the NHL, and the Oilers have the third-most wins in the Western Conference.

In Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at AMALIE Arena, however, the Oilers managed just 21 shots and one goal. Draisaitl, McDavid and Maroon were all held without a goal or point. McDavid and Maroon, in fact, were minus-three on the night.

As a group, the Lightning have been much improved defensively of late, allowing just 11 goals during their current seven-game point streak. That number is inflated too by a four-goal effort by the Stars in Dallas, a game the Bolts would lose in overtime.

The Lightning are allowing 2.78 goals per game, ranking 16th in the NHL, which isn't all that impressive compared to last season when the Bolts were fifth in the league - their best-ever ranking in team history -- at 2.41 goals per game but considerably better than earlier this year when the Bolts were in the bottom five in the league for goals against.

Video: EDM@TBL: Bishop robs Letestu's tip-in attempt

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who extended his win streak to five games after making 20 of 21 saves Tuesday against Edmonton, said it's difficult to understand why the Bolts are having more success keeping pucks out of their net now as opposed to earlier in the season, but a return to basics and a greater focus on the defensive side of the ice were necessary in turning things around.

"I think we're just doing a better job of communicating, kind of playing as a five-man unit instead of individuals," Bishop said. "We didn't give (Edmonton) much last night, and that's a really offensive team. It's impressive what guys are doing in front of us. Hopefully we can keep it going now. We've got a long way to go."

Bishop may have trouble pinpointing why the Lightning have been so stingy defensively of late, but he need only look in the mirror (and perhaps to his left at Andrei Vasilevskiy's locker room stall next to him) to see the real reason. The Bolts goaltending tandem of Bishop and Vasilevskiy has been putting together its finest performances of the season of late and doing so on a consistent basis. Only once in the last seven games have the Lightning given up more than two goals in a game, that coming in the aforementioned overtime loss in Dallas.

Bishop earned his first shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings two weeks ago, part of a season-long shutout streak of 132:13. Vasilevskiy hasn't been quite as fortunate having lost his last four games, but three of the four have come in an overtime or a shootout to provide the Bolts with much-needed points. In his next-to-last start, Vasilevskiy made several spectacular stops in a 37-save performance during a 2-1 loss to the top team in the Western Conference in Minnesota. The outing was maybe his best of the season.

Video: LAK@TBL: Bishop uses a quick glove to stop Muzzin

"You need the team in front of the goaltenders to play well," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I think it works hand in hand. Like, the team playing well gives the goaltender confidence and the goaltender confidence helps the team play well. Bish has been a proven winner in this league and he's a big part of our team but obviously Vasilevsiy has too. He's played in some big moments over the last two years in the playoffs. We're confident in both guys."

Bishop has been unbeatable so far since the start of February, going 5-0-0 with a 1.17 goals-against average (fourth best in NHL since Feb. 1) and a .953 save percentage (fifth best in NHL since Feb. 1). Despite his recent success, Bishop said he isn't playing any differently than he was early in the season when he started 7-9-0 and struggled with consistency. A crazy carom off a stanchion here, a deflected puck off a skate there, Bishop was the victim of unfortunate circumstances at the start of the year but has been receiving considerably better puck luck of late.

"I think it's just more getting some bounces and a whole bunch of things," he said when asked if he feels he's been playing better of late. "It's not like I feel different or am doing anything different. I think right before I got injured, those last few games, it was starting to turn around, and ever since I've come back, I've felt pretty good."

Added Cooper: "I think both our guys [Bishop and Vasilevskiy] have deserved more breaks than they've received, and now they're getting them and that's good."

ICE CHIPS: Ryan Callahan is likely lost for the rest of the regular season after having a second surgical procedure performed on his ailing right hip on Tuesday. "He's one of those guys if you didn't get paid to play, he'd still be playing and blocking shots and doing all those things leading teams to victories," Cooper said. "He's that type of kid. For him to go through this whole process this year, especially when our team is kind of having an up and down year and he knows that he could be a part of helping us turn it around, I know it's killing him."…Jonathan Drouin is still battling the effects of the flu and will be a "game-time decision" for tonight's game vs. Calgary...Anton Stralman will play in his 600th career NHL game and Tyler Johnson will appear in NHL game No. 300 against the Flames provided both are in the lineup as expected.

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