Tampa Bay Lightning

Callahan returns to Bolts practice, three days after appendectomy

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Less than 72 hours after going under the knife, Ryan Callahan is back on the ice.

The Tampa Bay winger — who missed Tuesday’s series-clinching Game 6 win over Montreal due to emergency appendectomy surgery — returned to practice on Thursday, presumably with an eye to draw back into the lineup for the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers, which begins on Saturday.

Callahan, 30, had three assists through 12 playoff games prior to the procedure, leading the Bolts with a plus-7 rating while sitting second on the team in hits, with 42. Those numbers came on the heels of a regular season in which he tied a career-high in points, with 54, while averaging 17:44 TOI per night.

So needless to say, he’s a pretty key contributor for the Lightning.

It’ll be interesting to see how Callahan does in his first practice back, and how Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper addresses the situation. Jonathan Marchessault replaced Callahan in the lineup against Montreal on Tuesday, but it’s likely that Callahan will do everything in his power to be ready for Saturday, as the former Rangers captain spent the first seven years of his career with the Blueshirts.

Canadiens need to be more than Carey Price

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Carey Price may be the deserving favorite to win the Hart Trophy, but his numbers in six games against the Lightning were anything but MVP-caliber.

Price went 2-4 versus Tampa Bay, allowing 16 goals on 154 shots, for a save percentage of .896.

His performance was actually quite reminiscent of the one by the last goalie to win the Hart, Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02. Also in the second round, Theodore struggled against Carolina, allowing 14 goals in his final three games combined, and the Habs went out in six.

That’s the risk a team takes when it relies heavily on its goalie. The Canadiens were not a particularly good possession team this season. They gave up more shots than they registered. They won their division largely because they had the NHL’s highest save percentage (.926).

“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price said. “I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to.”

That may sound like he’s being overly hard on himself, but what he said wasn’t untrue. His counterpart, Ben Bishop, finished the series with a .940 save percentage. The Lightning clearly won the goaltending battle. Hands up those who predicted that Bishop would outplay Price. Heck, a couple of weeks ago we were wondering if Bishop would be his team’s Achilles’ heel in Game 7 versus Detroit. You’ll recall that everyone was on the Petr Mrazek train then. What have we said all season about the unpredictability of the goaltending position?

“As a team we’ve got to understand that Carey’s the best goalie in the world but he’s also human, things are going to happen out of his control sometimes and we’ve got to respond for him,” defenseman P.K. Subban said.

With Montreal’s season over, that response now falls to GM Marc Bergevin. But his task won’t be an easy one. Unless you can think of a simple way to add an elite center. Because asking Alex Galchenyuk to be that guy next season is a pretty big ask for a 21-year-old. All we know is a team with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais as its top two centers is going to be hard-pressed to win the Stanley Cup, even with brilliant goaltending.

Related: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

Bishop closes series with jab at Subban’s ‘horseshoe’ comment

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While Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had a generally strong series, he didn’t even last to the halfway point of Game 4 before being pulled. After that contest, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban remarked, “I think Bishop sort of was sitting on a horseshoe for a little bit there. He’s played well, but he’s been lucky, as well.”

Subban thought Bishop’s Game 4 struggles would provide Montreal with confidence going forward, but the goalie responded by turning aside 45 of 48 shots over the final two contests of the second round. Tampa Bay still narrowly lost Game 5, but was able to eliminate the Canadiens tonight.

“Thank Goodness for my lucky horseshoe,” Bishop said after Tuesday’s game, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.

Bishop has let in some shaky goals over the course of the playoffs, but he also has a 1.81 GAA and .931 save percentage in 13 contests. With that in mind, it seems fair to say that he’s been a big part of Tampa Bay’s success thus far. His work is far from over though as Tampa Bay now sets its sights on reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004.

(Video) Stamkos: ‘That was probably the best game we played all playoffs’

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When a team establishes a 3-0 series lead as Tampa Bay did against Montreal, it gains breathing room as the onus is on the other squad to stage a historic comeback. Even still, the Lightning deserve credit for stepping up in Game 6 against the Canadiens after what was likely two frustrating losses.

In fact, Tampa Bay not only responded, but dominated in tonight’s 4-1 victory.

“That was probably the best game we played all playoffs,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said in his postgame interview.

Tampa Bay had a clear edge in shots (28-19), faceoff wins (36-25), and hits (33-22) tonight. This game also saw Stamkos score his third goal in five games. After a rough first round, he couldn’t be much hotter going into the Eastern Conference Final.

You can see his full interview below:

Lightning end Habs’ series comeback attempt, advance to Conference Final

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The Montreal Canadiens made the Tampa Bay Lightning work for their fourth win, but at the end of the day they couldn’t overcome the 3-0 series deficit. After two failed attempts, the Lightning outplayed Montreal in Game 6 en route to a 4-1 victory.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had a strong showing and came within 4:57 minutes of earning his second shutout of the 2015 playoffs. He had plenty of help in this one though as Montreal was held to just 19 shots on goal. Bishop never had to face more than seven shots in a single frame.

That’s in stark contrast to the rest of the second round series where Montreal was able to pepper Bishop with shots. The Canadiens struggles weren’t restricted to the Lightning’s end of the ice though.

A bad turnover by Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec led to Nikita Kucherov scoring the opening goal 15:35 minutes into the game. Steven Stamkos then netted a great marker in the second to provide Tampa Bay with some insurance so that by the time Lightning forward Ondrej Palat found the back of the net, Montreal’s situation was dire:

After two lengthy series, Tampa Bay won’t have too much time to recharge before the start of the Eastern Conference Final. The only silver lining is that its adversary will be just as worn down as Washington and the New York Rangers are set to play in Game 7 tomorrow to determine who will challenge the Lightning.

As for Montreal, this is a disappointing end to what had been a strong campaign. The Canadiens won the Atlantic Division with 110 points and beat Ottawa in six games in the first round. Montreal entered the season looking like Canada’s best chance at representation in the Stanley Cup Final, but that won’t happen. This will mark the 21st straight campaign that an American team has won the Cup.

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