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Lightning's Bishop gets his chance at Canadiens

by Corey Long /

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was "the other guy" in the first six games of the Eastern Conference First Round. He wasn't great, but he didn't play poorly either.

Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek was receiving all the accolades. Whether it was his 44 saves in Game 1 or shutouts in Game 3 and Game 5, the 23-year-old Stanley Cup Playoff rookie was starring as the series reached Game 7 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

But Bishop made 31 saves for his first NHL playoff shutout, and the Lightning eliminated the Red Wings with a 2-0 win.

"He stepped up like the player that he is," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said. "He's always been our top guy back there, our No. 1 penalty-killer. He's been as good as anyone."

Bishop will likely go back to being "the other guy" in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens, with the opposing goaltender Hart and Vezina Trophy finalist Carey Price.

Bishop had success against the Canadiens over the past two seasons, but he'll be seen as the lesser goalie until he proves it in the playoffs. Game 1 of this series is at Bell Centre on Friday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA, NBCSN).

"You have to embrace it, obviously [Carey] is one of the best goalies in the world," Bishop said. "It's always fun playing against the best. I've had a lot of fun playing against him in the past few years and I don't expect it to be too much different."

Bishop and Price were headed to face each other in the Eastern Conference First Round last year, but Bishop missed the playoffs with an elbow injury sustained during the final week of the regular season.

"It was disappointing to miss the playoffs, especially when you consider how things turned out," Bishop said. "It was tough to watch the game without being able to help. There wasn't much I could have done."

Bishop said he doesn't thinks about last year often. As much as it disappointed him that the Lightning were eliminated, he doesn't want to lose focus about the challenges they face in this best-of-7 series.

"It's a different season and these are different teams," Bishop said. "They kind of have the hand up on us after sweeping us last season in the playoffs, but we swept them in the regular season this year (5-0-0). Now we have to show we can beat them in the playoffs."

The Red Wings in Game 7 tried to attack Bishop quickly and put five shots on goal in the first minute. He said the work helped him settle in for what would be a busy night, and Lightning players said they could see him getting into a zone.

"You could tell he was on his game early," Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "And it was a gutsy performance, a real unbelievable effort."

Bishop was the subject of a lot of questions going into the playoffs. Despite winning 77 games over the past two regular seasons, he had not played in an NHL postseason game. He is often criticized by local media, especially on sports radio, and some fans were enamored with 20-year-old rookie backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the top goalie prospects in the sport.

But Bishop had his fan base; it was in the Lightning locker room, where they know what he has done the past two seasons.

"I think we can stop asking questions about [Bishop] now," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after Game 7. "If anything he proved some people wrong. No surprises in this room."

Bishop has a playoff series under his belt and a shutout win in Game 7 to show his detractors. Coach Jon Cooper said he expects his goaltender to only get better from here.

"Having Ben for the playoffs is a difference, and the performance he had in Game 7 is something we've become used for the last couple of years," Cooper said. "You never know how a series is going to pan out, but you want to put your best chips out there and see what happens."

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