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Lightning's Bishop beats Rangers again

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- After missing four games with a wrist injury, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop didn't show much rust.

Bishop made 33 saves and Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov scored nine seconds apart in the second period to lead Tampa Bay (28-15-4) to a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Brad Richards scored for New York (24-21-3), and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 of 25 shots.

With the win, the Lightning improved to 5-1-1 this season in the second of back-to-back games.

Already down 1-0, Tampa Bay's night appeared to take a turn for the worse when it momentarily lost its top defensemen. Brian Boyle took Hedman hard into the corner boards with 6:16 remaining in the first period. Hedman skated on his own to the bench, but appeared to favor his right hand before heading to the dressing room at the next whistle.

"He's a big part of our team. He plays a ton of minutes for us," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "Your heart goes in your throat when you lose anybody, but especially somebody like Victor. It was great to see him come back."

Hedman did return and took the first shift of the second period. He didn't appear any worse for wear, leading all Lightning skaters by playing 8:21 in the period. Most important, he sparked Tampa Bay's comeback with his 10th goal of the season. With Ryan Callahan off for high-sticking, the defenseman's blast beat Lundqvist cleanly to tie the game 1:10 into the period. It was confirmation that the 6-foot-6 Swede was OK.

"There was no intent from him [to injure]. He slowed down. I protected myself so I got a little stinger. It's good now," Hedman said.

Whatever lingering pain he may have felt, it clearly wasn't enough to affect his shot.

"Maybe that helped a little bit," Hedman joked.

The Lightning took the lead nine seconds after Hedman's blast.

Kucherov was sprung on a breakaway by a bouncing puck off the stick of Radko Gudas. The Russian rookie came in on Lundqvist before deking and beating him through the legs for his seventh at 1:19.

"That was a productive nine seconds for us," Cooper said. "Kucherov, he seems to literally fall out of the sky. I don't know how he gets open like that. He's been snakebit a little bit on [breakaways]. But I guess if you get enough of them, one is bound to go in."

After appearing flat-footed at the beginning of the second, the Rangers earned some quality scoring chances later in the period. Skating down the wing, Callahan wristed a hard shot that Bishop snagged with his glove at 10:55. Nash snapped a shot from the right circle 38 seconds later, but Bishop made the save and covered up with traffic in front.

"He made some key saves," Callahan said. "But at the same time, no matter how good a goalie plays you always look at yourself. You always try to find a way that you could have scored or done something better."

Outscored 2-0 in the second, New York was unable to maintain the energy it showed throughout the first period.

The teams had already traded scoring chances in the early going when Nash sent Chris Kreider on a partial breakaway 5:48 into the game. Kreider streaked in from the left wing and went to the backhand. But in his first game since sustaining a wrist injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 5, Bishop stretched out his left pad to stone Kreider.

"If he had scored, it wouldn't have mattered. I still felt good. He's a fast guy, likes to beat you wide. I was ready for it," said Bishop, who helped the Lightning tie Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, a 4-3 loser at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 60 points; the Bruins have a game in hand. "It's a tight race right now. It's kind of a sprint to the Olympic break. Every point is going to count until we get there."

After carrying the play for much of the first, the Rangers opened the scoring with 8:05 remaining when Richards took a Callahan feed from behind the net and beat Bishop. Richards' 12th of the season tied him for the team lead and marked the first time Bishop had allowed a goal against New York as a member of the Lightning.

In his first two starts with Tampa Bay against the Rangers, Bishop stopped all 61 shots he faced in two shutout victories. He has won all five career decisions against New York.

Trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes, New York came out flying at the start of the third, maintaining possession for large stretches in the Lightning zone. The Rangers were awarded with a power play when Gudas was called for tripping 6:37 into the third. With that, a power-play unit that had scored in five straight games went to work against a Lightning penalty kill that had allowed a goal in five straight. Each streak would be snapped by the end of the night.

Ryan McDonagh's slap shot 32 seconds into the Gudas' penalty was deflected and beat Bishop, but went off the left post. Mats Zuccarello then took a pass from Benoit Pouliot at the lip of the crease 23 seconds later, but Bishop made the save and Tampa Bay killed the penalty.

After allowing two third-period power-play goals Monday in a 3-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay's penalty kill then held the Rangers to two shots after Alex Killorn was called for tripping with 4:39 remaining.

"They made a commitment to win the hockey game tonight. They were blocking shots and laying in front of everything," said Cooper, who heaped praise on his goaltender. "He was probably our best player tonight. He gave us a chance to win."

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