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Burns: Three Things we learned in Bolts win vs. Capitals

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to pile up wins at home. Saturday, the Washington Capitals were the latest victim, falling 4-3. Since getting blown out in Minnesota, the Lightning have won three consecutive games, scoring 15 goals in the process, and have moved into a tie with Montreal for most points (17) in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

What did we learn following the victory over the Caps? Read along.

1. Radko Gudas won’t tolerate your (crap)

Memo to all NHLers: If you mess with anyone on the Bolts, you’ll have to answer to Radko Gudas. The bearded one was involved in another fight Saturday when goaltender Ben Bishop was run over by the Caps’ Eric Fehr.

Gudas immediately raced to Bishop’s rescue and dropped the gloves against Tom Wilson, the two scrapping behind and eventually on top of the Bolts’ net with Gudas sustaining the brunt of the damage but also earning the respect of his teammates.

“I can’t say enough about Radko sticking up for me there in the first period,” Bishop said. “He probably broke his nose, but that means a lot. It brings a team together, and you can’t say enough about his character for him to do that and come back and play and play well.”

When someone hits your goalie, it can’t go unanswered, and Gudas made sure the miscreant was dealt with.

“That’s Gudas,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s the ultimate competitor and ultimate team guy. That’s why we love having him.”

2. Nikita Kucherov is king of the tip-in goal

With five goals so far this season, Nikita Kucherov is second on the Lightning in scoring, three behind leader Steven Stamkos.

Of those five, three have come via the tip in.

Kucherov’s first goal of the season was scored on a redirected shot off the stick of Anton Stralman in the loss at Minnesota.

Against Arizona, Kucherov batted a slap shot from Radko Gudas out of midair down into goal to spark his first career hat trick.

And again, Saturday night against Washington, Kucherov broke a 2-2 deadlock by knocking Eric Brewer’s blast from the blue line over Caps goalie Braden Holtby simply by flicking his stick at the right time.

With Kucherov’s quick hands and exceptional hand-eye coordination, the 21-year-old Russian probably could have been a great hitter on the diamond.

Fortunately for the Lightning, he picked up a hockey stick first.

3. There's no doubt Ben Bishop has picked up where he left off last season

Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop set Lightning franchise records for wins (37), save percentage (.924) and goals-against average (2.23) in 2013-14, but the way the 27-year-old netminder has started the 2014-15 season, all of those marks appear to be in serious jeopardy.

Since his first regulation loss of the season at Edmonton, Bishop has won four-straight starts, including a 40-save performance in Winnipeg and 35 stops on Saturday to beat the Capitals.

Bishop’s seven wins – he’s 7-1-1 currently – rank in a tie for second among all NHL goaltenders and his 249 saves place tenth.

“He seems to come up with huge saves often,” Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison said.

Whenever Bishop’s in goal, there’s a feeling among Lightning coaches and players the team is never out of the game no matter how much the offense may be struggling.

“Kind of up and down throughout the game, momentum kind of went back and forth,” Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan said about the Washington game. “We handled the momentum swings the best we could and when they did have some pressure, Bish came up huge for us, which he seems to always do for us.”

If Bishop can maintain the level he’s currently playing, there’s a good chance he could be selected for the All-Star Game in Columbus on January 25, 2015.

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