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Burns: 3 things we learned from the Bolts evening the series against Detroit

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Game 2 against Detroit was a “way closer game” than the series opener.

Cooper figured the Lightning’s performance Saturday was “very similar” to Game 1, and the Red Wings “played way better.”

The results, however, couldn’t have been more drastic.

Nearly three minutes into Game 2, Steven Stamkos set off the crowd by putting Detroit’s Kyle Quincey in a headlock.

Soon after, the Lightning had a headlock on the game.

Three goals in the second period lifted the Lightning to a 5-1 win in front of a raucous Amalie Arena crowd, leveling the First Round series 1-1. Tampa Bay travels to Detroit for Tuesday’s Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena having won its first postseason game since 2011.

So why was Saturday a win and Thursday a loss? We’ll take a look at three main differences in today’s 3 Things.

1. BISH BEING BISH

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop admitted being “a little bit nervous” in his Game 1 playoff debut, but it wasn’t as if Bishop played poorly during Thursday’s 3-2 loss. There was little he could have done to prevent Detroit’s first two goals. The third goal, however, a squeezer through his legs off a spin-o-rama by Luke Glendening, was one he’d like to have back and proved to be the difference in the game.

In Game 2, Bishop regained his calm. He held firm with bodies buzzing around his net. He gloved long-range shots without allowing a rebound. And, with the outcome still in doubt, he kept the Red Wings off the scoreboard.

Following the win, the first one of his career in the postseason, Bishop said he felt more comfortable.

“Night and day almost,” he said.

Bishop went nearly 15 minutes in the first period without facing a shot but remained focused. With Detroit pushing to produce the game-tying score late in the first and into the second, Bishop was at his best.

“You could just tell with every save he was getting better and better and better,” Cooper said.

Bishop stopped 23 of Detroit’s 24 shots to spearhead the Bolts’ winning effort. His first win was nearly a shutout until a quarter of the way through the third when Tomas Tatar sent the puck past from a sharp angle to Bishop’s right, a puck that was sent on goal from the point by Quincey, ping-ponged off the Lightning’s Braydon Coburn in front and unknowingly redirected into goal by Tatar.

“That’s kind of what it was going to take (to beat Bishop), much like that’s what it was going to take on (Detroit goalie Petr) Mrazek last night,” Cooper said.

2. BLOCK PARTY

Part of the reason why Bishop was so good Saturday afternoon was due to the grunt work put in by all five Bolts in front of him.

Detroit sent 24 shots on Bishop’s goal but had quite a few more that never reached Big Ben because they were blocked away by the bodies of his Tampa Bay teammates.

The Lightning finished with 21 blocked shots. They had 18 through the first two periods when the result was still in doubt

The Lightning were two blocked shots away from tying their season high – 23, set November 11 during a 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago.

“The guys did a great job in front of me blocking a lot of shots and cleaning some of those rebounds,” Bishop said.

Cooper said the Lightning were “angry” in their effort to get in close to goal and look for rebounds and tips with the puck in the Detroit zone on Saturday.

That effort extended to the defensive zone as well. There was a ferocity to the way the Bolts willingly laid their body into the path of the puck to give Bishop as little work as possible.

3. SECOND-EFFORT SCORING CHANCES

The Lightning put up 46 shots in Game 1 but most of those were from distance without anybody in front to poach a rebound. Mrazek gave up a couple loose pucks, especially early in his playoff debut, but the Bolts didn’t capitalize.

On Saturday, the Lightning made a concerted effort to find their way to the net, and they were rewarded with three second-chance goals.

Tyler Johnson’s opening goal on the power play came after following up Nikita Nesterov’s shot from the center of the ice just inside the blue line. Johnson was fortunate that Nesterov’s shot took a deflection off a skate and another off the post and into the circle right to him, but Johnson’s willingness to crash the net also helped create that luck.

“Pucks bounced our way a little bit, but I thought we were in the battle hard,” Cooper said. “I think we were pretty physical tonight, and you could just see our bench get a little bit taller when those guys are battling the way they are.”

Alex Killorn stuck with it after his backhanded effort over Mrazek’s left leg while wide open in front of the net went wide. He collected the rebound and jammed it through the small opening between Mrazek’s skate and the post.

Valtteri Filppula added a finishing touch to the Bolts’ dominating effort late in the third on the power play, skating through three Detroit penalty killers to get to goal. His initial shot from the left wing on backup goalie Jimmy Howard was blocked away, but he followed his shot and put his second effort into goal.

“We were way more desperate tonight to get to the net and who knows why because we ended up having 40-plus shots the other night, but I think we let (Mrazek) see a lot of them and tonight I think there was a lot more traffic,” Cooper said.

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