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Bishop shuts out Hurricanes in debut for Lightning

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After Ben Bishop's first skate with the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday morning, the goaltender seemed completely believable when he shrugged off the possibility of being nervous before his debut.

"I've been doing this for a little bit now," Bishop said politely.

Then he went out and backed it up.

One day after leaving the Ottawa Senators at the NHL Trade Deadline, Bishop stopped 45 shots to record his third career shutout as Tampa Bay cruised to a 5-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

Tampa Bay pulled even with Carolina in points with 34, although the Hurricanes claim the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference. The teams trail the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets, tied with 38 points, in the Southeast Division.

The Lightning are hopeful Bishop can take the reins in goal, a position that has been unsettled in recent years. Though Thursday's game is a very small sample, Bishop's debut left his teammates impressed.

"It was a heck of a first game for him," said defenseman Matthew Carle, who logged a team-high 25:29 and added two assists. "Not only stopping pucks, but getting out behind the net and making plays with the puck. It makes it 10 times easier for us as D-men."

Carle didn't stop there. He noticed that Bishop began to take control of the game.

"There were a couple instances where he was standing up and reading plays where guys were going to shoot high," he said. "Even his communication skills, when we had the puck and we're going back for it, he was talking."

Bishop also won over forward Martin St. Louis, whose three-point night highlighted the Lightning's first shutout of the season.

"I thought [Bishop] played really well," St. Louis said. "He had some key saves and was really calm in the net. He's a big boy, and he handled the puck. I thought he was tremendous."

Bishop's game was unmistakably strong, but it's difficult to overlook his frame. At 6-foot-7, he covered a lot of net and moved well.

Carolina did deliver stretches of sustained play in the offensive zone. Bishop had to stop six shots by forward Jeff Skinner, three of them strong chances. Bishop also denied four shots each by Tuomo Ruutu and Alex Semin.

"Sometimes I had to be sharp, and sometimes the guys had to block shots in front of me," Bishop said. "They did their job in the first to keep it a 0-0 game. The offense took over in the third and the guys played great in front of me."

Once the Lightning offense got under way, it stayed in gear, scoring in a variety of ways. In the second period, Teddy Purcell scored on a rebound, Tom Pyatt redirected a shot in the slot, and Keith Aulie scored on a wrister through traffic.

The Lightning poured it on in the third with a highlight-reel blast between the circles from St. Louis, and Benoit Pouliot finished the scoring after taking a pass at the right doorstep from Steven Stamkos, who had two assists.

Tampa Bay has dominated Carolina this season, winning all four games by a combined total of 18-3.

"I don't know why, I can't really explain it," said St. Louis, who is similarly tight-lipped about his 81 points in 72 career games against Carolina. "Sometimes it's just where the game falls on the schedule. We don't over-read it. We try to just go out and play."

Bishop took his shutout in similar stride, knowing the Lightning need a strong push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's big for the team," he said. "There's no individuals in here. We're chasing a playoff spot, so every game is important. Really I just wanted to get off on the right foot and do that with a win."

Bishop also got on the good side of Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who has now coached three NHL games.

"He was really confident in the net tonight," Cooper said. "When your goalie is confident, you play confident. He kept everything simple and he wasn't all over the place. He kept his energy and he was just steady back there. It just got to the point where they were like, 'Bishop has this.'"

There is no such confidence in Carolina, where the Hurricanes have slipped to 1-9-1 in their past 11 after starting the season 15-9-1. During the slide, the Hurricanes have been outscored 42-18.

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he felt his team deserved a better outcome in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to Washington, and he touched on a similar note Thursday.

"As long as they have that fight in them, we're taking it game by game," Muller said. "It's 5-0, but parts of the game we're happy with. But we get fragile late in the game and it's different going into the third period."

For Tampa Bay, all the talk centered on Bishop. The 26-year-old with the gentle smile said all the right things about his teammates, even though he stole the show in his debut. As he sat in his locker, the game puck sat alone on a shelf above him. Asked if that souvenir will provide a special memory, he allowed just a little indulgence.

"Yeah, it's special, the first win with these guys," Bishop said. "It's just one game. You can't get too high. Right now, we've got to get ready for Saturday (at the New York Rangers), another big game."

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