TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning are eager to take another shot at the Montreal Canadiens.
A year after being swept by their Atlantic Division rivals in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, the confident Lightning will be looking for redemption when the teams meet again in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“This sure does make us feel better about ourselves,” coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday night after Braydon Coburn snapped a scoreless tie in the third period and Ben Bishop stopped 31 shots to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 in Game 7 of a tougher-than-expected opening-round series,
The Lightning advanced beyond the first round for the first time since 2011. They head to Montreal for the start of the next series Friday night, feeling they are a much better team than the one the Canadiens eliminated last year.
“We weren’t ready to play at that level. We had a lot of young guys,” All-Star Steven Stamkos said. “We have another year under our belt. Now we have a series win, and a Game 7 win under our belt. Guys get more confidence.”
Tampa Bay won the regular season series between the teams 5-0, though the Lightning insist that doesn’t give them an edge.
“It’s a brand new animal. A brand new challenge.” Coburn said.
“The results really don’t matter at this time,” Stamkos said. “They played solid in their first round. We found a way to get it done. Two good teams. I don’t think we worry about anything that happened in the past. Focus on the present and what we have to do.”
Coburn’s third goal in 79 career playoff games kicked up over Petr Mrazek’s right shoulder and Ben Bishop posted his first postseason shutout to keep the Lightning’s season alive.
Anton Stralman added an empty-net goal with 1:18 remaining, ensuring the Lightning would win the first Game 7 they’ve played at home since beating Calgary in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay, which rallied from a 3-2 series deficit, advanced despite not getting any goals from Stamkos. He hasn’t scored in 10 straight playoff games dating to Game 2 of last year’s series against Montreal.
“You go back a year ago, four-game sweep. To win this series we had to win three of four, and they found a way. So, they learned,” Cooper said.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a short period of time and get refocused,” Coburn said.
Bishop, who sat out last year’s playoff series against the Canadiens because of injury, is 10-1-2 lifetime against Montreal. Mrazek had two shutouts for Detroit in the opening round, however Cooper felt his goaltender had an outstanding series, too.
“Mrazek has been getting the press about how he’s played in this series and nobody was really talking about Bish,” Cooper said. “After tonight, talk about Bish.”
The Lightning set franchise records with 50 victories and 108 points this season. Bishop was a big part of that, posting a career-best 40 wins.
The 6-foot-7 goaltender said he learned a lot during the first playoff series of his career.
“When you lose Game 5 and are one game from elimination, you’re not in the best mood. When you come back, you’re on a high. You definitely have to learn to control that,” said Bishop, who allowed eight goals in the five games Tampa Bay played against Montreal this season. “When you’re down, it’s not over. When you’re up, it’s not over either. You can take a lot from that.”
With Bishop playing well and All-Star Tyler Johnson coming off scoring six goals against Detroit, the Lightning have plenty of reasons to feel good about the prospect of changing the result against the Candiens this time.
Cooper expects an exciting series.
“We tipped our toes in the water last year,” the coach said. “This year we actually get to jump in the pool.”
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