New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – Ben Bishop responded from a shaky performance with the biggest win of his career, a 22-save shutout to propel the Tampa Bay Lightning into the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bishop’s third shutout of the postseason helped Tampa Bay defeat the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.
Bishop became the first goaltender to record shutouts in each of his first two Game 7 starts. He stopped 31 shots against the Red Wings on April 29 during the first round.
“I felt good with the way I was playing,” said Bishop. “If we play like the way we did tonight, we have a pretty good chance every night.”
Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat each scored during the third period for the Lightning, who will look to win their first Stanley Cup since 2004, when they defeated the Calgary Flames in seven games.
“I’ve watched this team get pushed against the wall … they just answer the challenge,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “This is a team that didn’t play with each other, they played for each other. That’s why we are here.”
Tampa Bay will face the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 of the Western Conference finals between Chicago and Anaheim on Wednesday.
Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for the Rangers, who entered the game with a 7-0 record at Madison Square Garden in Game 7s and 10 straight home wins when facing elimination.
New York forced Game 7 with a 7-3 win on Tuesday, but were shut out in the final 145:43 of the series on home ice thanks to Bishop’s Game 5 whitewash.
“The last two games at home we weren’t able to generate the looks to get anything past their goaltender,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “This is very disappointing to us and our fans.”
Killorn broke the scoreless deadlock 1:54 into the third period by skating across the left circle and backhanding a shot that trickled through Lundqvist’s pads.
Lundqvist kept it a one-goal game after sprawling out to stop Cedric Paquette’s point-blank offering with 12 minutes to play. Bishop countered at the other end with a series of stops during a mad scramble in front moments later.
The Lightning increased the score to 2-0 with 8:43 remaining. Tyler Johnson entered the offensive zone and sent a cross-ice pass to Palat, who skated up to the left circle and wristed a shot over Lundqvist’s glove.
New York pulled Lundqvist with 3:44 remaining, but was unable to keep its season alive.
“It’s painful right now, it really is,” said Lundqvist. “You put your heart and soul into this entire year to try and get back and get an opportunity play in the Final and we were 20 minutes away.”
With under eight minutes left in the opening stanza, Matt Carle’s slap shot from the left point deflected in front and off the glove of Lundqvist, but bounced off the top of the net and behind the cage.
After an energetic start for both teams, the Lightning controlled play through the rest of the frame, limiting the Rangers to just one shot over the last 9:57 and holding a 9-5 shot advantage.
New York captain and star defenseman Ryan McDonagh spent the first 10 minutes of the game in the dressing room and logged just 1:47 of ice time in the first period. Following the game, it was revealed that McDonagh was playing with a broken foot.
Each team had opportunities during a tight second period. New York was awarded two power plays, but were unsuccessful on both advantages due to Tampa Bay’s stingy penalty kill.
Tampa Bay caused havoc with four minutes left in the stanza. Palat weaved through the zone and wristed a shot on net, and moments later, Lundqvist got just enough of Jason Garrison’s one-timer from the left circle to keep it a scoreless game.
Johnson snuck in behind the play and had a quality chance with 1:34 before the second intermission as his one-timer from atop the goalmouth was denied by Lundqvist’s pad.
The New York netminder made 10 more saves during the second, while his counterpart in the Tampa Bay crease stopped six shots.
Bishop became the third goaltender in NHL history to post two Game 7 shutouts in a single postseason (Patrick Roy in 2002, Tim Thomas in 2011) … The Lightning netminder notched his third assist of the postseason on Palat’s goal to become the 10th goaltender in NHL history to record three or more helpers in a single postseason … Tampa Bay improved to 9-0 when scoring first this postseason and 5-1 all-time in Game 7s … The road team won five of the seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.