Sunday night’s 5-2 win in San Jose was an important one for the Lightning.
Aside from winning their first game in the Bay Area since 2003, the Bolts also saw a return to form by starting goalie Ben Bishop, who stopped 33 of 35 shots for just his second win in five games.
“This was a big game for Bish to get his mojo back,” captain Steve Stamkos said, per the Tampa Tribune. “I know we’ve been leaving him out to dry the last couple of starts, and he was fantastic for us.”
After last year’s breakout campaign culminated in his first-ever Vezina nomination, expectations were raised for Bishop this season — partly due to his two-year, $11.9 million contract extension. The NHL’s tallest netminder has struggled to meet those expectations, though, thanks in part to injury and in part to inconsistent play; while his win-loss record is sparkling (28-10-3), he’s seen his GAA increase to 2.45 and his save percentage drop to .911 (after posting a .924 last season.)
And recently? Bishop hasn’t been good at all.
Last Saturday, he was hooked after allowing three goals on nine shots in an eventual 4-2 loss to Los Angeles. The next game, he allowed three goals on 28 shots to Anaheim and the game after that, was hooked again after allowing five on 34 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Blues.
But Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is shielding Bishop from any potential criticism or controversy, by doing what smart coaches do — putting defensive woes on the entire team, not the goalie.
“Do I like being first in offense? No question. But if we want to be a serious threat moving forward, we can’t be 15th in the league on defense,’’ Cooper said, per the Tribune. “I think if you’re first in offense and 15th on defense, it’s going to be a harder time to win if you reversed it and are first on defense and 15th in offense.
“We’ve got to get into that top eight or top seven.”