‘It’s tough’: Knee issue forces Stars’ Bishop to end NHL career

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DALLAS — Ben Bishop’s 2½-year saga with an ailing right knee is ending with the Dallas Stars goalie believing he did everything possible to get his career going again.

He is still not quite at peace with the fact that he couldn’t.

Bishop confirmed Tuesday what Stars general manager Jim Nill said three days earlier: The 35-year-old’s playing days are done because of a degenerative issue in the knee.

“I guess one of the hard things is, I get out there and I still feel pretty good in some of the practices and you still feel like you have the skill to play in this league,” said Bishop, whose last NHL game was in the 2020 playoff bubble in Canada 15 months ago. “But then when your knee tells you you can’t, it’s tough.”

It’s not officially a retirement because Bishop is. under contract through next season and will still be around the team. But the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist won’t be in net again after last week’s one-game rehab attempt with the AHL’s Texas Stars yielded eight goals and even worse news afterward. The knee was swollen again.

Bishop said the first sign of trouble with the knee came during a seven-game loss to St. Louis in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. He had surgery to clean up a torn meniscus after playing through the injury until the COVID-19 pause during the 2019-20 season.

When pain persisted and kept him out of all but three games during the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, Bishop had the knee checked again. Surgery to repair the meniscus revealed that cartilage was wearing away. Essentially, Bishop was playing bone-on-bone, which often caused sharp pain, particularly with the butterfly moves.

As a result, Bishop missed all of the shortened 2020-21 season. While he practiced with the team most of this season, Bishop never came close to being activated.

“If I was a forward, I could be playing right now,” Bishop said. “But with the butterfly, the torque you put on your knee, it just couldn’t really get better.”

The emotional moments for Bishop came when talking about teammates and family members, including wife Andrea and young sons Ben and James sitting nearby. Bishop did chuckle, though, when recalling his dad telling him he wasn’t going to miss the AHL game in the Austin area because he hadn’t seen his son play in two years.

Bishop read off a list of people to thank, starting with the St. Louis organization since the Stars were playing the Blues later in the day in the same arena.

Bishop’s career started as a 22-year-old in St. Louis, where he played youth hockey. He led Tampa Bay within two victories of the title in 2015, when the Lightning lost to Chicago in six games.

Tampa Bay was the title winner in six against Dallas two seasons ago, with Anton Khudobin taking over after Bishop tried once but couldn’t go again in each of the first three playoff series victories.

Rick Bowness was an assistant with the Lightning when Bishop led them to the brink of the title, and said he joined the Dallas staff because of Bishop. Bowness took over as coach early in the 2019-20 season.

“He took a team to the finals that wasn’t quite ready to go to the finals,” Bowness said. “He’ll look back at his career and know that he got everything he could out of his ability. When he was on, no matter who was healthy in the league, he was top three, in my opinion.”

Bishop was 222-128-36 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 413 games over 11 seasons with five teams. The others were Ottawa and Los Angeles. In the playoffs, he was 36-21-13 with a 2.09 GAA and .927 save percentage.

In his final playoff game before the knee became a significant issue, Bishop had a career-high 52 saves in Dallas’ 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7 against the Blues in 2019.

“The path that I took, going to college, going to the minors, fighting your way up to the NHL and kind of establishing yourself and having some success,” Bishop said. “I think there’s some satisfaction, but you want to win the Stanley Cup. I guess I’ll try to find a different way to win that now.”

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    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.