NEW YORK (AP) — Take the spotlight off goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals and put it on Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If it sounds fickle, that’s the way it’s been for the goaltenders in this series between two of the NHL’s top-scoring teams.
Game 1 was tight checking. Two was a Lightning blowout. Three was a shootout and the last one Lundqvist stole for the Rangers with a 38-save performance in a 5-1 win that evened the series at 2-all.
Lundqvist was special in Game 4 after giving up 12 goals in losing the previous two games.
Now the focus is on Bishop heading in Game 5 on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The big goaltender, who has a 10-2 career mark against the Rangers, has given up 10 goals in the past two games.
“I just don’t think you get here to this point in the season and even into the playoffs without having a goaltender, a guy that bails you out when you need to be bailed out,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. “Ben Bishop has bailed us out some games. Have we bailed him out?
“Sure we have sometimes. But for the most part, Bishop has been rock solid for us. Especially for a kid that’s not played in an NHL playoff game before, there is a brighter light on him, and all he’s done is passed every test that gets sent his way. “
Like Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, Cooper had no intention of switching goaltenders, calling the suggestion “preposterous.”
Bishop didn’t play poorly in Game 4. The five goals came on a breakaway by Rick Nash, a rebound by Chris Kreider, a Keith Yandle shot that went off a Lightning defender, and two power-play goals, including Nash’s second on a rebound.
While not happy about giving up 10 goals in two games, Bishop reacted much like Lundqvist after his struggles. He planned to learn.
“You never want to give up 10 goals in two games, but we did,” he said. “We’ll go back and look at it, and adjust.”
Despite the Rangers’ margin of victory, the Lightning had the better of play at times, particularly in the second period. The game could easily have been another shootout had Tampa Bay buried its chances.
“Every game is a new game,” Rangers forward Martin St. Louis said. “The stuff that might work in Game 3 might not work in Game 4, and it comes down to making good reads sometimes and look sharper at other times in games. Depending on how you’re reading the rush or reading the play, do you pull back or do you jump in a lot?
“You really have to be aware of everything that’s going on the ice and making the best move you can.”
Not only did Lundqvist rebound in Game 4, the Rangers also got big games from Nash and St. Louis. A 42-goal scorer in the regular season, Nash got his first two goals of the series on Friday and St. Louis scored his first of the playoffs this season after failing to convert several outstanding chances.
“It’s a struggle when you’re not scoring,” Nash said Saturday. “I think it tests you mentally, it tests you emotionally. But at the end of the day it’s not about you, it’s about the team and anything you can do to help the team win. If the team’s winning, you’re obviously happy and smiling.”
The Rangers’ also have produced on the power play, getting two extra-man goals in each of the past three games. They are 6-for-13 during that span.
“I think we’ve just got to play better,” Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn said. “There are a lot of aspects of the game that go into playing defense. Obviously, our penalty kill, we’ve got to make sure we shut them down and defensively we’ve got to pick things up.”
NOTES: Six of the Rangers’ last 12 playoff series have been tied 2-all, dating to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Ottawa in 2012. New York is 4-1 in those series. …New York has allowed two goals or fewer goals in 12 of 16 playoff games this year. …Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has scored in three straight games and five of his last six.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.
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