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Rough night for Bishop swings pressure back to Stars

Dallas was the better team in Game 3, but some 'unfortunate bounces' help hand Nashville the win and series lead

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Goalies … it had to be goalies.

Like Indiana Jones wielding his whip and facing his greatest fear, Stars fans on Monday fell back into a pit that seemed all too familiar.

Yes, Ben Bishop is in the argument for best netminder in the league this year. Yes, he set a franchise record for save percentage. Yes, you figured you were past talking about goalies in a loss.

And yet, here we are.

Bishop allowed a soft goal 3:29 into the second period and then was handcuffed by a deflection with 8:19 remaining in the third en route to a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 3 at American Airlines Center.

Video: Montgomery impressed with fans despite loss to Preds

The defeat puts the Stars down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and takes away the home ice advantage that was won in Nashville last week. It also creates that faint sense of doubt in Bishop that you hadn't felt all year.

Could the 6-foot-7 backstop get hurt at some point? It's always a possibility with his history. Would he be among the reasons the Stars lost? Well, that was not expected.

Bishop has been spectacular this year. He only played in 46 games because of various injuries and the strong play of backup goalie Anton Khudobin, but he went 27-15-2 with a 1.98 GAA and .934 save percentage. That GAA was second best in the league among goalies that qualified, the save percentage was best. He's definitely earned a few mulligans.

But, man, the timing of it all.

The Stars in Game 2 were a bit overwhelmed by a Nashville team desperate to not go down two games at home. Bishop kept the Stars in it with 40 saves, forced overtime, and allowed Dallas to leave Music City with both positive feelings and a newfound energy to improve.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm3: Bishop denies Arvidsson's redirect

So after a few hiccups early, Dallas did improve in Game 3. Fueled by a raucous crowd and a few lineup changes, the Stars were hands down the better team. They started pelting Pekka Rinne with scoring chances, and looked for all the world like they were going to get something going.

So when Rocco Grimaldi (it had to be Rocco Grimaldi) skated down the right wing and flipped a harmless shot at Bishop, you fully expected the big goalie to make the save and start an odd-man rush going the other way. Instead, he flubbed and allowed the shot to go in.

"It's unfortunate. It's a bad goal. It's one that you have to have," Bishop said. "I just got caught a little in between. I was going to punch it out, and then I was going to corral it. It hopped inside and in. It's unfortunate, but it happens."

It was a bad mistake, but hey, there were almost two periods left to play, so the Stars could get it back.

They tried to do just that, and earned a minute and a half of 5-on-3 power play in the second period. The man advantage has gone 0-for-10 in the past two games, so you know the results. But the opportunities were there, as Dallas had 11 power-play shots on goal, and simply couldn't beat Rinne.

Video: Bishop on his Game 3 performance in Stars' defeat

Goalies … right?

Rinne joins the ranks of Roberto Luongo and David Aebischer and John-Sebastien Giguere as goalies who have crushed your dreams in this building. Well, at least for one game, he does.

The big Finn was fantastic, and no more so than when stopping the 5-on-3 or foiling Jamie Benn on a point-blank chance that would have given the Stars a 3-2 lead.

"He was really good," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Without that save on Jamie Benn, that would have put us up 3-2 and the roof probably would have come off of the AAC."

Instead, there was quite the opposite reaction.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm3: Seguin buries feed from Benn

Mikael Granlund wheeled at the right point and flung a prayer on net midway through the third period. It somehow ticked off something and slipped past Bishop. It was a seeing-eye dagger, the kind Bishop had stopped for most of the season.

"I don't know if we're playing if it's not for our goalies, and especially Ben," Montgomery said when asked about his assessment of the goaltending. "Our players have to pick him up for the number of times he's picked us up. Would Bish like to have some of those back? Yeah, but they constantly had traffic and you have to give Nashville credit as they're getting to that net front and causing havoc."

So where do we go from here? Well, this puts a lot more pressure on Wednesday night in Game 4. But to be honest, the Stars don't need to panic.

Had Bishop been himself, they would have won Game 3. In reality, they were the better team, posting a 42-28 advantage in shots on goal, a 42-23 advantage in hits and winning 36-of-64 faceoffs (57 percent). They added Jason Spezza to the lineup and watched the 35-year-old play 14:26, take seven shot attempts, and win 64 percent of his draws. It was a great sign of roster flexibility if Mattias Janmark continues to be out with a lower-body injury or Montgomery wants to play someone other than Tyler Pitlick (as he did Monday).

Jamie Oleksiak came in for Taylor Fedun and played 10:45. He had six hits in that span. There were a lot of good things going on in this game.

Video: Seguin on first playoff goal in Stars' Game 3 loss

Well, except for the goalies.

But just as Indiana Jones faced his fears and won, you're going to have to do the same thing. All of those goalie nightmares have built up over the years, but this season seems different.

This season seems like a new beginning in that department.

"Some nights there's unfortunate bounces. Some nights you get lucky. That doesn't change anything," Bishop said of his determination to move forward. "It's the same routine night in and night out."

The same routine that's so much different from what you have lived through for the past decade or so.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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