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Bishop sets Lightning record with win against Devils

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- Goalie Ben Bishop set a Tampa Bay Lightning record in style Saturday night.

Bishop made 23 saves in a 3-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The win was his 31st of the season, which broke a tie with Nikolai Khabibulin, who won 30 in 2002-03.

"It's special," Bishop said. "It's something I don't really stop and think about right now; maybe at the end of the season. We've got some games left, so hopefully I can add to that. It's a team thing; the guys in front of me, I wouldn't be here without them."

The shutout was the fifth of the season for Bishop, the eighth of his career. This is the 27-year-old's first season as a No. 1 NHL goaltender after playing rarely for the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators in parts of four seasons prior to being traded to Tampa Bay.

"You're watching the growth of Ben Bishop," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He's picking up points for us. He's been that guy that has let up two or less [goals] all year. You need your goaltender to stop the ones he should and then come up with one that was a big one. That was it. You want to be a starting goalie in this League, that's what you have to do."

Tampa Bay (36-24-7) maintained a two-point advantage over the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division. Bishop is 31-11-6 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

Defenseman Michael Kostka scored in a second consecutive game and had an assist. He gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead after he pinched to the left of the crease and gathered a pass from Ondrej Palat. Kostka pulled the puck to his backhand and beat Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with 3:02 remaining and the teams skating 4-on-4.

Standing beside the net in the offensive zone is an unusual place for a defenseman to be, but Kostka had a good explanation.

"I was lost," he said. "I don't know. I just kind of jumped in there and tried to trust my instincts to get into a situation where I was able to get a shot and it went in."

Kostka has four goals and four assists in 16 NHL games this season. He scored in a 5-4 win against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Valtteri Filppula had his second assist, his sixth in his past three games. Palat has three goals and four assists in his past four games.

Nate Thompson made it 3-0 with 3:19 remaining after he took a cross-ice pass from J.T. Brown and slipped the puck through Brodeur's pads for his ninth goal of the season.

B.J. Crombeen scored his third goal of the season 12:26 into the second period for the 1-0 lead. He deflected a shot by Kostka from the blue line past Brodeur with Ryan Malone, in front of the New Jersey net, obscuring the goalie's view.

The goal came 67 seconds after Brodeur stopped a Brown penalty shot. Brown, on a breakaway, was pulled down from behind by New Jersey defenseman Jon Merrill. Brodeur took Brown's attempt with his glove, the ninth successful stop of a penalty shot in 12 against during his career.

Brodeur made 17 saves before the Lightning scored, several worthy of a highlight reel, including a glove save on a shot Steven Stamkos blasted from the slot.

"You feel when you make a couple of big saves it sparks the team offensively, but Tampa Bay is a pretty good hockey team," Brodeur said. "We gave it a push in the third period but they played well. They were tight, and every time we tried to cheat they made us pay. They played well defensively and that created their offense."

Cooper attributed it to a renewed emphasis on the basics.

"One of the big things we have been pushing here is our structure," Cooper said. "It kind of got away from us a little bit. I thought it was huge for us. We weren't giving up the odd-man rushes and we were coming back [into our zone] as a pack in numbers. On the bench, everybody was pushing every other line, and it was a positive feeling."

New Jersey lost back-to-back games in Florida, after a 5-3 setback against the Panthers when Cory Schneider was in goal. The Devils were shut out for the eighth time this season.

"It's a disappointing trip, but no one is turning the lights out," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "The season's not over and we have to go on a run here and take advantage of our home games."

The Devils (29-26-13), sixth in the Metropolitan Division, start a five-game homestand Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.

The Lightning complete their six-game homestand Monday against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I told the guys after the game that the way we played tonight not only wins games in the regular season, it wins games in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]," Cooper said.

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