TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ben Bishop felt healthy enough to play, and the Tampa Bay Lightning will live with the result.
The goaltender played through pain in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night, stopping 27 shots in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks that put the Eastern Conference champions in a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series.
Game 6 is Monday night in Chicago. It is unclear if Bishop or rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy will have the task of trying to stop the Blackhawks from clinching their third NHL title in six seasons.
Bishop said he was feeling better and improving daily, and coach Jon Cooper insisted he had no regrets about starting the goaltender in Game 5.
“Absolutely not. We’re not here without Bish,” Cooper said.
“He gave us every chance to win that game,” the coach added, “We’ve got to score more than one.”
Bishop was solid for the most part after sitting out Wednesday night’s 2-1 road loss. He made several tough saves after Antoine Vermette’s second goal of the series gave Chicago the lead for good two minutes into the third period, but a huge mistake by the 6-foot-7 goalie in the first loomed large at the very end.
Patrick Sharp scored Chicago’s first goal 6:11 into the game when Bishop left the net to try to make a play on a loose puck and collided with defenseman Victor Hedman before falling to the ice.
The puck scooted through the goalie’s legs, leaving Sharp with a clear path to the net for a 1-0 lead.
Bishop called the blunder “unfortunate,” adding he saw the puck come off the boards and was hoping to get it to Steven Stamkos and take advantage of Chicago making a shift change.
“Heddy was coming for it, I was coming for it,” Bishop said. “You can’t really hear anything in the building when it’s that loud. Obviously, you saw the result.”
“It’s the first time that’s happened,” the goaltender added. “Bad time to have happen. … Hindsight? Yeah, i should have stayed in.”
Bishop’s return energized a sellout crowd of 19,204 through pregame warmups and the introduction of the starting lineups.
The Lightning were outshot 14-5 in the opening period, but tied the game in the second on Valtteri Filppula’s fourth goal of the playoffs, a shot from the right circle off a cross-zone pass from Jason Garrison.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, continued to do a good job of containing Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who was limited to one shot and still hasn’t scored in the series. The three-time All-Star was at a loss to explain his offensive struggles.
“If I knew the answer, I’d have a couple,” Stamkos said. “All this stuff means nothing now. We’ve got one game. It’s going to come down to how much we want to extend our season and what we’re willing to do. This group has come too far to not leave it all out on the ice next game.”
There’s reason to be hopeful, although Nikita Kucherov — part of the high-scoring “Triplets” line that also includes Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — sat out most of the game after getting tripped up and sliding into the post in the first period.
The Lightning are 8-4 on the road in the playoffs, compared to 6-7 at home. They’ve already won once in Chicago, and they’ll try to draw on the experience of overcoming a 3-2 deficit to defeat Detroit in seven games in the first round.
“The series is not over,” said defenseman Anton Stralman, who had an assist on Tampa Bay’s only goal.
“I’ve probably overused this line during the playoffs, but I guess we’ve gone from an inexperienced playoff team to an experienced playoff team, and we’ve been in this position before just a month and a half ago in the Detroit series,” Cooper said, adding he didn’t have an update on Kucherov, who has 10 playoff goals.
“This team has found a way, and that’s why we are where we’re at right now … and people can’t sit here and say, well, the inexperienced Lightning. I think we’re the gamer Lightning. These guys have gamed out these playoffs, and I expect nothing less in Game 6 in Chicago.”
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