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Bishop gives Lightning goaltending they needed

by David Satriano / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- All the talk going into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final was about Henrik Lundqvist, his dazzling numbers and the New York Rangers' perfect record in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

But it was Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning who ended up with a 2-0 win Friday that sent the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, where they will face the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 on Wednesday.

Bishop made 22 saves for his second shutout of the series; he won Game 5 here Sunday (also 2-0). Bishop is 2-0 in Game 7 in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs, and has allowed two goals on 77 shots in three elimination games.

"He's probably our MVP," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said. "He's our backbone back there. He's won us games. He's gotten us to advance. … [Bishop] stood in there and has been phenomenal."

Bishop allowed five goals three times in the series, twice at Amalie Arena, including a 7-3, Game 6 loss he was pulled from, but was at his best when it mattered most.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "You never want to give up that many goals at home, but I felt good with the way I was playing. … I felt pretty confident in this building. We've done well against them all year, so I wasn't too worried about it."

The Lightning went 5-1 at MSG, including the regular season. They are 7-1 in the playoffs following a loss, and Bishop has a 1.25 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage with two Game 7 shutouts in those games.

"I don't think he surprised anyone in this room," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "I think the doubt was from the outside, but his ability to bounce back, along with our team, after we played a poor game so far this playoff has been outstanding, and we follow his lead. He made the saves we needed on the penalty kill. …When you can come into a rink like this and win three times, you deserve to move on."

Bishop eliminated two of the best goalies in the NHL: Lundqvist, and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

"It's nice. Obviously we all knew [Lundqvist's] record," Bishop said. "You saw it all over the TV and there wasn't many people picking us, so it's nice. … To kind of break that record, I think they were 6-0 at home (7-0 in Game 7), it's always nice to be able to do that. … If we play like we did tonight, we have a good chance every night."

Bishop was traded to the Lightning from the Ottawa Senators in April 2013 and became the starter last season. He is 77-27-12 in the regular season since, but missed the 2014 playoffs with an elbow injury. He was nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2014.

"He's been huge for us ever since he got here," Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson said. "He's one of those guys that you just have confidence in, and he is just back there, and it just really helps you. There are so many times when we just put him out to dry and he just kind of makes those saves for us."

The 6-foot-7 goalie, who is 12-8 with a 2.15 GAA and a .920 save percentage in the playoffs, hopes his best performance is yet to come.

"Anytime you can play for the Stanley Cup, it's pretty fulfilling," Bishop said. "We said after the game we still haven't accomplished anything yet. You're four wins away. That's going to be probably the hardest four wins of all of our careers.

"So we know there is a lot ahead of us. Two really good teams in the Western Conference, so we'll just try to get a little bit of rest here in the next couple of days and be ready for whoever we play."

Chicago and Anaheim play Game 7 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

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