MAY 8, 2016: BISH, PLEASE
Since coming to Tampa Bay via trade during the 2012-13 season, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has been at his best in playoff series clinching situations.
During the Bolts’ 2015 run to the Stanley Cup Final, Bishop blanked both the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of a first round series and the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, the first time the Rangers had ever lost a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Bishop’s playoff prowess continued in the 2016 postseason.
After recording a shutout in a clinching Game 5 against the Red Wings in the first round, Bishop repeated the feat against the Islanders in the second round, spearheading a 4-0 Game 5 victory at Amalie Arena that vaulted the Bolts into the Eastern Conference Final for a second-straight year.
Bishop made 28 saves in Game 5. His best came early in the final period with the Lightning holding a 3-0 lead. Cal Clutterbuck’s shot from the slot sailed over the net and caromed to Johnny Boychuk on the post.
Bishop had his head turned backward trying to locate Clutterbuck’s shot but kept his right leg extended at the post. By the time Boychuk tried to jam a shot home, Bishop was in a full split to keep his goal covered.
Bishop recorded his fifth career playoff shutout in Game 5 against the Islanders, tying him with Nikolai Khabibulin for most in Lightning franchise history.
JANUARY 12, 2016: PASSING THE PUCK
By the time the Tampa Bay Lightning visited Denver for a date with the Colorado Avalanche, the Bolts were starting to hit their stride.
Tampa Bay, beset by injuries, limped through the first half of the season, falling at one point to seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic Division.
The Lightning’s fortunes started to change, however, following a 3-2, come-from-behind victory in Edmonton in which the Bolts scored three third-period goals to salvage a win.
Tampa Bay would go on to win its next seven games.
Against Colorado, the third game in that seven-game win streak, the Lightning played perhaps their most complete game of the season.
The Bolts’ second goal in a 4-0 win encapsulated how well the team was clicking in the Mile High City.
In a series of diagonal, cross-ice passes, Ondrej Palat hit Vladislav Namestnikov and Namestnikov hit Steven Stamkos at the post for a Stamkos one-timer into the net.
The crisp passing sequence was one of the prettier goals the Lightning would score all season.
Putting up Palat of Points vs. Scoop Save and a Beaut
MARCH 5, 2016: PUTTING UP PALAT OF POINTS
Ondrej Palat scored his 50th career goal in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in early March, and No. 50 might have been the prettiest of all.
In a scoreless game, Palat took possession of the puck inside the Bolts’ defensive zone, then proceeded to weave his way through a plethora of Canes. Once he got a step on Ron Hainsey, he blew past the Carolina defenseman and powered toward goal before beating Canes goalie Eddie Lack with a shot at the far post.
Palat would go on to score career goal No. 51 later in the game.
Behind Palat’s pair of goals, the Lightning won their ninth game in a row to set a new franchise record.
DECEMBER 14, 2015: SCOOP SAVE AND A BEAUT
Ben Bishop made 28 saves to win in Columbus in the Lightning’s first meeting of the season against the Blue Jackets.
He owes Vladislav Namestnikov a pat on the back for one of them.
With just over two minutes to go and the Lightning holding on to a 2-1 lead, a series of shots from in close had Bishop sprawled across the net, his pads stacked to take away as much of the net as possible. Brandon Dubinsky jammed a puck toward the goal line from a sharp angle near the post. The puck trickled along the goal line, half in and half out. Bishop was on his back, hoping he was lying on the puck, unaware it was beside him.
Namestnikov saw he loose puck and reached over Bishop to pull the puck back off the line and into Bishop’s body to get a whistle.
The Lightning defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1, and Namestnikov would continue to make an impact on the road trip, scoring the game-winning overtime goal in Toronto a day later.
Tic-Tac-Goal vs. Johnny on the Spot
OCTOBER 23, 2015: TIC-TAC-GOAL
An early-season tilt in Winnipeg was a lesson in perseverance for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 during regulation. The Jets answered each time, forcing overtime.
The Lightning needed just 36 seconds in the extra frame to come away with both points.
Steven Stamkos blocked a puck at the defensive blue line and started a three-on-one break the other way with Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat.
Tyler Myers was the lone player back for Winnipeg, Ondrej Pavalec the last line of defense in goal.
The Lightning trio proceeded to make them both look silly.
Stamkos hit a trailing Hedman, who sent it back to Stamkos, who passed cross-ice to Palat, who tapped in on the back post.
The overtime win was the Bolts’ lone victory on their second road trip of the season, a four-gamer in October in which the Bolts went 1-1-2.
FEBRUARY 20, 2016: JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Although the Lightning fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven tight games during the Eastern Conference Final, the Bolts had plenty of success against the Pens during the regular season.
Tampa Bay won both regular season meetings at home then completed the season sweep in Pittsburgh on February 20. Tyler Johnson scored the game-winner on a beautiful passing sequence.
Jonathan Marchessault should get most of the credit for the goal. He held the puck in the zone, scanning his options, before delivering a pinpoint pass across the ice to an onrushing Ondrej Palat.
Palat fed the puck in front for Johnson, who neatly redirected the puck into the open net.
The Lightning defeated the Penguins 4-2 in Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay outscored the Pens 15-9 over three regular season games.
Vasy Robs Crosby vs. Bishop Makes History
MAY 16, 2016: VASY ROBS CROSBY
With Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final tied 2-2 midway through the second period, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby thought he had an easy tap-in on the back post to pull the Penguins in front.
Lightning backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, making his second-ever postseason start in place of the injured Ben Bishop, had other ideas.
Evgeni Malkin had drawn Vasilevskiy to the right of goal with a strong rush down the wing. Malkin spied an open Crosby on the back post and slipped a cross-ice pass into his path.
Crosby had the whole goal to shoot at with Vasilevskiy out of position and tried to backhand the puck into the center of the net.
Vasilevskiy, though, displayed his side-to-side speed, sliding over to meet the puck and snatch it out of the air with his glove, centimeters before the puck crossed the goal line.
Crosby could only shake his head in disbelief at the should-have-been goal. He would get his revenge later, however, scoring the overtime game-winner in a 3-2 Penguins victory in Game 2.
OCTOBER 17, 2015: BISHOP MAKES HISTORY
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop made 31-of-32 stops in an early-season matchup against the Buffalo Sabres to pick up his 84th victory in a Lightning sweater and set a new franchise record for goalie wins.
Bishop’s best save from the historic night came late in the game with the Bolts’ clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Sam Reinhart, who scored the Sabres’ lone goal earlier in the game, had the puck in the offensive zone along the boards and spotted Ryan O’Reilly streaking down the center of the ice uncovered. O’Reilly took Reinhart’s pass and had an open look at the Bolts’ goal.
Bishop, however, wasn’t about to let a late goal spoil his party.
O’Reilly moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand and tried to stuff the puck past Bishop at the post. Bishop slid over to close the door, getting his right hand up in time to block the shot away.
With that save and the subsequent victory, Bishop passed Nikolai Khabibulin (83 wins from 2001-04) for most wins in Lightning history.