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Lightning's Bishop continuing to elevate his game

by Corey Long / NHL.com

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday he believes goalie Ben Bishop has gotten bigger with each challenge in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He'll have another challenge in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday at Amalie Arena (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports).

It's hard to imagine how much bigger the 6-foot-6 goalie could get after his 31-save shutout in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings, but Bishop continued to elevate his play with 43 saves in a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Canadiens.

And his teammates credited Bishop for making tough saves Sunday in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series to keep things from getting out of hand until Tampa Bay got rolling on its power play and cruised to a 6-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead.

Cooper said going through the ups-and-downs of the Red Wings series was the best thing that could have happened for Bishop, who was making his NHL playoff debut.

"Ben had to go through some of the nerves, especially in Game 1 against Detroit when we had a big shot advantage and didn't win," Cooper said. "But as the series went on he got better, and as the stage got bigger so did he. It was the best thing for him that series went seven because he had to face the different emotions and challenges that come with that kind of series. And as the series moved on we needed him more."

Bishop has been the target of some physical play by Montreal in the first two games of series. In Game 2, Canadiens forwards Torrey Mitchell and Brandon Prust made contact with Bishop in the third period and were assessed penalties.

"I expect them to be physical," Bishop said. "It's no different than what I've been through in the past. You have to remain focused on stopping the puck."

Beyond the physical play, Bishop likely will be asked to start back-to-back games, with Game 4 on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Cooper said Bishop's status for Game 4 would depend on what happens Wednesday. But barring a multiple-overtime game, it's likely Bishop will stay in the net.

"The good thing about a back-to-back game in the playoffs is that both teams are facing the same situation," Bishop said. "I'm just thinking about Wednesday. Obviously after this game there's a short turnaround for [Game 4] and then we can think about that."

As the questions about Bishop have quieted, so have the thoughts about last year's Stanley Cup Playoff series between these teams. Like the Canadiens swept the Lightning in the first round last year, the Lightning can do so with wins in the next two games at Amalie Arena.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is tired of talking about last season and doesn't consider this year's series as any sort of payback for what happened.

"I don't think anyone's thinking about what happened in last year's playoffs," Stamkos said. "This is a new team with veteran guys we brought in during the offseason and at the trade deadline. We just want to keep winning games."

Stamkos scored a goal and had two assists in Game 2, his first goal in 11 playoff games.

"I was definitely relieved because you tend a press a little," Stamkos said. "But once that goal went in I felt much lighter on my feet. Up until then I still felt good and felt like I was doing the little things to help us win."

Here are the projected lineups:

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Alex Galchenyuk - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Brandon Prust - Lars Eller - PA Parenteau

Jacob De La Rose - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Tom Gilbert - Greg Pateryn

Carey Price

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Manny Malhotra, Brian Flynn, Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Condon

Injured: Nathan Beaulieu (upper body)

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat

Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Brian Boyle

Vladislav Namestnikov - J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Matthew Carle

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Brenden Morrow

Injured: None

Status Report: Paquette was a participant in the optional morning skate and remains a game-time decision for Wednesday. …The Lightning recalled nine players from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League on Monday for practice purposes.

Who's Hot: Kucherov scored two goals Sunday and has six points in his past four playoff games. … Stamkos' goal in Game 2 was his first since Game 1 against the Canadiens last year.

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