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Bishop, Lightning shut out Rangers, take series lead

by Brian Compton /

NEW YORK -- The pain Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop experienced during warm-ups Sunday paled in comparison to the anguish he caused the New York Rangers and their fans at Madison Square Garden.

"It didn't feel good," said Bishop, who could laugh about the pregame shot he took from defenseman Nikita Nesterov after he made 26 saves and Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist to help the Lightning to a 2-0 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004 with a win in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Bishop dropped to the ice when Nesterov's shot struck him in the midsection, but he was ready to go for the opening faceoff.

It was Bishop's second shutout of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs; he allowed five goals in each of the previous two games, including a 5-1 loss in Game 4 in Tampa on Friday.

"I think tonight was our hardest game," Bishop said. "There's going to be nights where things don't go your way, and it's one of those things if you let it bother you, then you're in trouble. You can't look at it like a small picture; you've got to look at it like the whole year. There's going to be good nights, bad nights, and it's just one of those things. For me, [Game 4] was just not the best night, not the best luck. I wasn't looking too much into it."

Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves for the Rangers, who had difficulty getting into the shooting lanes and went 0-for-4 on the power play.

New York scored two goals with a man-advantage in each of the previous three games.

"Our power play had been getting us some momentum, had been getting us some really good looks," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our execution was a little bit slow tonight on the power play. Because it was slow, it made it easier for them to defend. We didn't get very many looks on it, and obviously that was a big part of tonight's game."

Lundqvist made his best save 1:42 into the second period against Stamkos. After Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle turned the puck over in front of the net, Lundqvist came out to challenge and made a glove save on Stamkos' wrist shot from the slot.

Bishop responded less than two minutes later when he denied Rangers center Derek Stepan from the left circle after a turnover by Lightning forward Ondrej Palat in the slot. Bishop gobbled up Stepan's shot, not allowing a rebound.

"I would say he looked really confident in the net," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We've watched this in two previous series. As the series have gone on and the longer they've gone on, he's elevated his game. It's when you know he's back there and he's playing with that confidence and the way he's playing the puck, he's making that first save. He's not giving up rebounds; he's just commanding the net.

"We feed off that. We have no doubt how he can play. You don't, with four teams that are left, you're not getting here without good goaltending. All great goalies left, and [Bishop] is a top-tier goaltender in this league and he's shown it."

The Lightning broke through when Filppula scored at 13:29 of the second. After Tampa Bay killed its fourth penalty of the game, New York center James Sheppard got caught trying to pick off Anton Stralman's outlet pass to Stamkos, and the latter fed Filppula for a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Lundqvist to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. It was Filppula's third goal of the postseason.

Stralman was on the ice for 2:20 leading up to the goal.

"Our game is defense-first. I know you guys haven't seen a lot of it," Stralman said. "But we definitely stepped our game up tonight and we took care of our end before we went on the offense. That's when we play our best, I think. We made sure [Bishop] saw the pucks. Our forwards did a great job blocking some big-time shots from the points, and overall I think we did a good job outnumbering in the corners, winning a lot of battles, and under pressure we didn't complicate things too much. We made sure the puck went out of the zone."

Stamkos doubled Tampa Bay's lead with a power-play goal at 18:22 of the second period. After Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was whistled for tripping, Stamkos finished a gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing play with Palat and Nikita Kucherov, tapping Palat's feed past Lundqvist to make it 2-0.

Stamkos has scored in four straight games and in six of the past seven games. He has seven goals in the playoffs after failing to score in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I'm definitely more confident now than I was the first eight games, no question," Stamkos said. "But I think for me, it was a great adversity test. Our team was winning, which was great. The depth has prevailed all season for our team, but I knew I was playing the right way. When you play the right way, things are going to start going your way.

"We switched some things up; [I] moved to the wing, tried to free some things up. The power play has gotten a lot better too, where you get a couple goals, you get a couple points there, now you're feeling a little better. So everything has kind of accumulated to this point right now. But when you have confidence, you try to keep it as long as you can, because it is tough to get at this time of the year."

New York outshot Tampa Bay 6-4 in the first period; there wasn't a shot on goal by either team over the final 9:12, a far cry from the up-and-down style played during Games 3 and 4 at Amalie Arena.

"I think the first period was definitely a little different than what we saw down there," Lundqvist said. "[There was] more thinking behind every play and kind of waiting for the chances. I thought we played a good game. We were holding on to a lot of pucks. They looked they controlled the middle and their own end pretty good, so it was hard to get in there and create the big chances. It was a pretty tight game."

The Lightning went 1-for-3 with the man-advantage.

New York rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round to defeat the Washington Capitals in seven games. The Rangers have won 14 of their past 17 games when facing elimination since 2012.

They'll need a victory Tuesday to force a Game 7 against the Lightning, which would be played in New York on Friday.

"It's a race to four," Stepan said. "It doesn't matter how many games the other team wins, we have to beat them four games. We have to go into their building and find a way to get it done."

Defenseman Braydon Coburn did not play the final two periods because of what is believed to be an illness, but he remained on the Lightning bench.

"These are the questions I'll probably have to answer tomorrow, but I don't know what TV cameras picked stuff up," Cooper said. "We had issues on the bench, so I've got to find out more of what's going on. But there was, yeah … don't walk on our bench. That's what I'm going to say."

Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle returned to the lineup after missing Game 4 because of an undisclosed injury. He replaced defenseman Mark Barberio.


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