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Bishop, Lightning shut out Red Wings, win series

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

TAMPA -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was injured, and so he chose to watch the games on television.

After the Lightning lost Game 1 at home, Bishop chose a different spot to watch Game 2. After a Game 3 loss at Bell Centre, Bishop switched his spot for Game 4, the game that clinched the Canadiens' sweep of the Lightning.

"I changed everywhere," Bishop said. "I was just trying to change the karma."

A year later, the Lightning will face the Canadiens again, but Bishop will have far more control on their fate this time.

Braydon Coburn's goal at 3:58 of the third period and Bishop's 31 saves lifted the Lightning to a 2-0 win in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

Tampa Bay and Montreal will play Game 1 on Friday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lightning coach Jon Cooper felt Bishop had been overshadowed in the series by Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek, at least in terms of media coverage. He encouraged the media to change its focus after Bishop's performance Wednesday.

"[Bishop] took command of the game," Cooper said. "We had a seven-game series, and he took command of this game. I think Mrazek's been getting a lot of press about how well he's played in this series, and nobody's really talked about [Bishop]. After tonight, we can talk about [Bishop]."

A lot can be talked about concerning the Lightning, particularly how their makeup has been drastically changed by general manager Steve Yzerman.

Half the Lightning had never played in a Game 7 before, but two of their more experienced players in this situation combined to score the winning goal, and each was brought in by Yzerman in the past 14 months.

Coburn, acquired at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline from the Philadelphia Flyers, took a pass through the slot from Ryan Callahan, acquired at the 2014 deadline from the New York Rangers, and one-timed a slap shot to the opposite top corner behind Mrazek.

Coburn and Callahan each was playing in a Game 7 for the fifth time. It was Coburn's second Game 7 goal; he's scored one goal in 74 other playoff games.

"I probably shouldn't say this," Cooper said. "But when that goal went in, I thought, 'Wow, what a hell of a trade.' First thought."

In addition to Coburn, Cooper heaped praise on the play of defenseman Anton Stralman, a free agent signing last summer. Brian Boyle was brought in to provide stability down the middle, and young players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and even captain Steven Stamkos are a year older and wiser.

This Lightning team is different than the one that got swept by the Canadiens in the first round last year, and it is eager to show it.

"Everyone talked about last year how maybe we weren't ready, and we're young and inexperienced," Stamkos said. "We had to prove it to ourselves. I don't think we were really worried about what anyone else was saying, but we had the mentality that we wanted to win.

"This is a team that never quits, has that character and great leadership core, and I think we're all better for it after going through this series."

It wasn't always clear the Lightning would come out on the right end of the series.

After Tampa Bay won Game 6 in Detroit 5-2 to avoid being eliminated, Coburn's series-winner came on the Lightning's 14th shot of the game, their seventh at even strength, after the Red Wings thoroughly dominated the opening 40 minutes but were not rewarded with a lead.

"We were probably a pretty nervous group, for sure in the first period. That's a learning experience," Cooper said. "I thought we played as good as we have in the series in those last 15 minutes. That's a team that has grown up. And it's always good when you can learn experience and still win."

Playing without suspended defenseman Niklas Kronwall and injured defenseman Marek Zidlicky, the Red Wings did not appear to be missing them through the first two periods. They outshot the Lightning 23-12, including 17-6 at even strength, and controlled long stretches of play in the offensive zone.

"We really fought hard and played one of our best games," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, who was held without a goal for the first time in 23 career playoff series. "But we couldn't find a way to get the puck in today, and they scored in the third. We had a lot of good chances."

Shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the first two periods were 32-13 in favor of the Red Wings, a disparity that reflected play quite accurately. Nowhere was this possession dominance more striking than with the Lightning's "Triplets" line of Palat, Johnson and Kucherov, who were not on the ice for a single Tampa Bay shot attempt at 5-on-5 at the second intermission.

"We came hard the first ten minutes, we put the puck on the net, but we couldn't get any bounces and just one goal was the difference," said Mrazek, who made 15 saves. "We had ten chances and couldn't score, and they scored the one goal."

The first two periods had a very similar feel, with the Lightning scrambling to take the puck from the Red Wings to no avail, and even though the game was scoreless after 40 minutes, momentum appeared to be on Detroit's side.

It all changed with one shot.

After Coburn scored, the Lightning got a lift and began taking it to the Red Wings, increasing the pressure around Mrazek and having an apparent goal by Stralman at 12:46 of the third waved off when Stamkos and Detroit forward Riley Sheahan were called for offsetting minors when they got tangled up in the slot as Stralman skated by.

Turns out the Lightning didn't need it, with an empty-net goal by Stralman at 18:42 sealing a trip to the second round against a familiar opponent.

The Lightning won all five games against Montreal in the regular season by a combined score of 21-8. They just wanted an opportunity to make it six wins in a row, and more importantly erase the memory of that quick playoff exit a year ago.

Now they have it, and they have their starting goaltender healthy and coming off his first playoff shutout.

"We dipped our toes in the water last year," Cooper said. "This year we get to jump in the pool."

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