PITTSBURGH -- The concern must have been astronomical on the Tampa Bay Lightning bench when starting goalie Ben Bishop left Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Friday on a stretcher with an apparent lower-body injury.
With 7:35 remaining in the first period, Bishop crumbled to the ice in agony after scrambling to get back into position and appeared to be clutching his left knee. It was the latest name added to a long list of injuries to key players on a team that somehow manages to continue to push forward.
That was the case again Friday when the resilient Lightning, who were already without No. 1 center Steven Stamkos and top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman, won the opener of this best-of-7 series 3-1.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said X-rays on Bishop came back negative, but it's unlikely he'll be able to play Game 2 here on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"You're concerned for your guy," Cooper said. "Gosh, I don't think I've seen that since [Stamkos] went down a couple of years ago (with a broken leg). It just brings memories like that, situations that have happened before. When we got some test results back and found out it wasn't as … he's definitely hurt, but there's nothing structurally wrong right now. That was a big relief.
"But the guys, it's a pretty focused group. Everybody was concerned for Ben's health, but there wasn't concern about, 'Oh my gosh, well the game's over.' That was the farthest thing from the truth that was on our bench."
It showed on the ice. Alex Killorn scored late in the first period, Ondrej Palat got a power-play goal early in the second and Jonathan Drouin scored later in the period to silence what is normally a raucous building.
Backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, a highly-touted 21-year-old who had 113 minutes of Stanley Cup Playoff experience entering Friday, relieved Bishop and made 25 saves for the win.
"We've faced a lot of adversity, and I think we're obviously a little bit used to it," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "For us, we've been through situations like this before. We knew it was a very important game for us. We made sure that we got ready for this one. When [Ben Bishop] went down, we wanted to play a good game for him. Obviously we started off on the right foot and played a great game. We played good defensively there in the third and we didn't give them too much."
It was an effort Bishop could be proud of, one that wasn't the least bit surprising to Cooper or to anyone in his dressing room. But it was remarkable, considering the fear the Lightning players had to have been experiencing while watching their No. 1 goalie carted off the ice on a stretcher.
"He didn't say anything," Killorn said of Bishop. "You could tell he was in a lot of pain. It's one of those moments where he's been so great for us. You don't know what's happening, no one knew what was wrong with him. For him to get carted off like that, it's typically pretty serious.
"I just went up to him and said, 'We got this. Keep it up, buddy.' He just looked at me. I don't think he said anything, but it just kind of lifts the team up when you come together and you get a goal at the end of the period there."
It's that resiliency that helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final a year ago and has them three wins away from a return trip. But to be at this point without having Stamkos or Stralman at all during the playoffs, and now potentially without their No. 1 goalie, one has to wonder how they keep finding ways to win.
"I think a lot of that comes from last year, the run we had and the confidence we had in this group coming back this year," right wing Ryan Callahan said. "I think the issue heading into this postseason was all the injuries, but we've had that mentality it's the next guy up and the next guy steps in and does the job. It's been the whole group all year, it was the whole group last year when we made that push.
"We have a very deep team. I think that's been a big key for us. Obviously you have all these injuries and guys going down, but when they do I think we have that mentality of guys stepping in and being ready to play."