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Lightning expect bounce-back in Game 5 vs. Rangers

by Brian Compton /



Best-of-7 series tied 2-2

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Copper is confident his team -- and goalie Ben Bishop -- will bounce back in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

A 5-1 loss Friday in Game 4 at Amalie Arena was the first time Bishop allowed five goals in back-to-back games in more than four years.

The Lightning are 4-1 after a loss in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 6-2, Game 2 win at the Garden after a 2-1 loss in Game 1.

"Well, if you think about the history of our team since I guess our band has been together for the last two years, we've had pretty good responses after we've lost games," Cooper said. "I'm not sitting here saying we're playing poorly, because I don't think we're playing poorly. Do we have some things we have to tighten up? Yes. But give the Rangers credit. They're making us do things that are probably a little outside of our comfort zone.

"They've got a lot of good players over there, so they're hard to contain, just as probably they think we are in some respect. But we've been a pretty good bounce-back team, and we've had a fairly good history of bouncing back after losses.

"I know when we spoke after the game yesterday our guys had a pretty determined look on their face. They know the series wasn't going to be a sweep. Now it's down to the best of three, and game on."

Before departing for New York on Saturday, Cooper scoffed at the idea of sitting Bishop in Game 5, calling it "preposterous."

"I just don't think you get here to this point in the season and even into the playoffs without having a goaltender, a guy that bails you out when you need to be bailed out," Cooper said. "Ben Bishop has bailed us out some games. Have we bailed him out? Sure, we have sometimes. But for the most part, Bishop has been rock solid for us. Especially for a kid that's not played in an NHL playoff game before [this season], there is a brighter light on him and all he's done is passed every test that gets sent his way. The tighter the game has got and the more pressure packed the series got, Ben Bishop got better, and you can't ask any more than that."

With Rangers forwards Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis scoring Friday, the Lightning defense has to improve in Game 5.

"You can't keep giving up so many goals. I think that's the main thing," Lightning center Valtteri Filppula said. "I think we spent a lot of time in their zone, had a lot of good chances and should have scored a few more goals. Obviously, that's the plan. But I don't think we need to change too many things, just play a little bit better defensively."

Dating to last season's Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers played 15 consecutive one-goal playoff games (an NHL record) before losing Game 2. Tampa Bay won Game 3 6-5 in overtime.

New York trailed its Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Washington Capitals 3-1, but knew it would have been difficult to do advance again against the Lightning. With the victory Friday, the Rangers regained home-ice advantage with Game 6 in Tampa and Game 7, if necessary, in New York.

"Our overall situation is a little bit better," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I mean, we knew that [Friday] was a very important game. We've evened the series out. Best-of-3 now, and we have home-ice advantage. But it's been a really tough series. Every game has been different. First game was tight-checking. Second game, special-team units took over. Third game, it was back-and-forth where there's tons of open ice. And [Friday] night from our standpoint, we had a really solid first period. They got momentum in the second and some looks, and our goaltender stood tall.

"In the third, we were able to get them out of reach with a couple of big power-play goals. So every game has been different. At this time of the year, it's about finding ways to win and that's what we're trying to do."

Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle did not play in Game 4 because of an undisclosed injury. Cooper said Carle is improving but is unsure if he'll be able to play Sunday.


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