(photo: Matthew Paulson)
The Tampa Bay Lightning had their backs against the wall more than a couple times in the opening series of the 2015 NHL Playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings. In fact, Tampa never held the advantage in the first round, and had to tie the series no less than three times after falling behind a game. That all changed last night, though, when after forcing a game seven, the Lightning rallied on home ice to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Goaltender Ben Bishop has gone through ups and downs this series, but his 31 save shutout last night was good enough to lift his team to a second round berth, and possibly silence the nay-sayers. He was sidelined with an injury last year when the Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens, but now he has a chance to test his nerve against them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Montreal defeated the plucky Ottawa Senators in the opening round in six games. After the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper emphasized that Bishop may have been overlooked by the press in favor of Red Wings’ rookie goalie Petr Mrazek, but the time to disregard Bishop is over.
“It was a seven-game series, but Bish took command of this game. A lot of the press in this series was talking about [Mrazek] and nobody was talking about Bish. Well, now they are talking about Bish.’’
Goalies need nerves of steel to keep them on their toes through any game, let alone a game seven of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two scoreless periods with the opposition dominating the game can make than tension even greater. Detroit outshot Tampa 23-12 through two periods, and Bishop was equal to the task. The dam finally broke in the Lightning’s favor at 3:58 of the third period with a goal by Braydon Coburn. The goal helped bring mental focus to the nervous young Tampa squad who performed a 180 from the shaky first two periods. Suddenly the pressure was on Detroit, and the Lightning would even score again, only to have the goal waved off because of coincidental minors from Steven Stamkos and Riley Sheahan.
In the end they didn’t need that tally, though, as an empty-net security goal by Anton Stralman (with an assist from Ben Bishop) at 18:42 was enough for the Lightning to punch their ticket to the second round, and secure the rematch they were hoping for.
Game 1 of the second round series between Tampa Bay and Montreal will take place at 7:00 pm on Friday, May 1, at Bell Centre.