Bishop had lost his last five starts but not through any fault of his own. Bishop allowed just eight goals and carried a .941 save percentage and 1.63 goals-against average in those five losses.
Bishop was doing everything he could to set the Lightning up for victories.
His teammates weren’t giving him much help, though.
Tampa Bay scored just three goals total during Bishop’s five-game losing streak.
They equaled that scoring output Thursday. Bishop earned his first victory in November and first since the Bolts 4-3 overtime victory in Winnipeg on October 23.
What did the Bolts do differently last night they weren’t able to accomplish in Bishop’s previous five? And can they sustain the momentum they built last night?
We’ll dissect the 3-1 win over the Flames in today’s 3 Things.
1. FOOL’S GOLD
The 3-1 Lightning victory was a much-needed positive step in the right direction following two-straight losses for the Bolts.
The Lightning were 2-6-1 in their previous nine entering the Calgary game, so any win is a welcome departure from the string of losses.
With that said, the Bolts’ performance Thursday didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
The Lightning opened the game by controlling the puck and keeping it buried inside the offensive zone for the first 10 minutes or so, but the extended possession didn’t generate all that much in the way of quality scoring chances.
The next 40 minutes were pretty mundane for the Lightning. Calgary outshot the Bolts 15-7 in the second period and took advantage of countless Lightning turnovers. The Flames continued to dictate the game early in the third.
It wasn’t until a little more than half of the final period remained before the Lightning turned it on.
“I think we played good the first 10 and the last 10 and in between wasn’t so hot,” Bolts goalie Ben Bishop said.
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, the Pacific Division cellar-dwelling Flames were unable to take advantage of the Bolts’ miscues and had their own issues to deal with, mainly a propensity for giving up goals, Calgary ranking last in the league for goals against at 3.88 entering Thursday’s game.
With the score tied 1-1 and less than 10 minutes to go, the Lightning got a late power play, went back in front on Steven Stamkos’ team-leading ninth goal of the season and added an insurance marker for the 3-1 victory.
“It wasn’t a dominating game by any means,” Stamkos said. “It was one of those games where we got a late power-play opportunity and were able to capitalize.”
2. SEIZE THE DAY
One positive the Lightning can draw from Thursday’s victory – besides two points – was their ability to surge ahead and finish off the Flames with two points in clear sight.
Despite muddling through the second period and early into the third, the Lightning remained level with Calgary at 1-1. Victory within reach, the Bolts put together their best stretch of play over the last half of the third period to end a two-game losing streak and a three-game winless stretch at Amalie Arena.
“That last 10 to 12 minutes, the boys were getting after it,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “They sensed there was a game to win, and they went and took it. It’s something we’ve had trouble with of late.”
The Lightning tacked on another goal when Tyler Johnson scored his third goal in six games. The Bolts nearly had a fourth on Ryan Callahan’s empty-netter, but the score was waved off for offside.
But, the Bolts can’t relax thinking they’ve suddenly fixed their scoring woes.
“Just because we scored three tonight doesn’t mean we’re going to come out the next game and score,” Bishop said. “We’ve got to keep working at it and keep building.”
3. SETTING THE TONE
There’s a reason Ryan Callahan was named a permanent alternate captain at the beginning of the season, despite playing just a year and a half in Tampa Bay.
Callahan plays with a grit, hustle and determination not replicated by many in the NHL. During the Lightning’s recent struggles, Callahan has made it his mission to snap the Bolts out of their funk. Last night, he hit anything in an opposing sweater that moved and got involved in a few minor skirmishes in an attempt to light a fire under his teammates.
It seems to be working.
“He’s been outstanding,” Cooper said. “He’s kind of the straw that’s stirring the drink right now. He never cheats you on effort. He’s banging into everybody. He gets into a little scrum behind the net. That’s why he’s one of our captains. You wish to have a ton of guys like him, but they’re rare commodities and glad he’s with us.”
Callahan’s also a big reason why the Lightning penalty kill has improved greatly since a rough stretch to begin the season. Despite giving up a goal last night to the Flames power play, the Lightning have killed 35-of-39 opponent power plays over their last 13 games, an 89.7 percent success rate.
The Lightning’s penalty kill ranked dead last following the first couple weeks of the season but has moved all the way up to 15th in the league since (79.6 percent overall).
“We’ve been getting a lot of penalties,” Stamkos said. “He’s been getting a lot of opportunity out there to do what he does best, stir the pot a little bit, use his tenacity and speed. I think he’s been able to do that with his physicality. He’s been a big part why, for the most part, our penalty kill has been a lot better since the beginning of the year.”