Ben Bishop is not 100%.
Ben Bishop is not 100%, and Jon Cooper knows it. He won't say so out loud, but he's a lawyer, and obfuscating the truth with double talk or outright lies is what lawyers do.
And trusting his players to fight through pain, leaving them in games because they say they can play -- that's what Jon Cooper does.
Well, I talked to him [Bishop]. We're not going to put anybody in a game that is going to be in harm's way of hurting himself. We talked long and hard if he could play tonight. There wasn't a doubt in his eyes. You can read when guys are sitting there saying, Coach, I'll go for you. Or you can say, give me the net. That kid said, give me the net. I knew we were going to be okay.
The Lightning continued their recent trend of strong starts, putting pressure on the Chicago defense, keeping play out of Bishop's end, and generating a handful of chances early, including one from the middle of the slot by Anton Stralman that narrowly missed giving Tampa Bay the early lead.
The Bolts did manage to score first once again, however, as Ryan Callahan blasted a slap shot for the game's first goal from an amazing lead slap pass by Victor Hedman. That was followed by a big surge for the Hawks that essentially lasted the rest of the first period; Tampa Bay was fully in scramble mode.
The Hawks managed to miss two wide open nets off broken plays and poor reads by Ben Bishop, and eventually broke through on the power play as a long center point shot by Brad Richards eluded Bishop's glove and tied things up 1-1.
That's when Bishop started to look visibly unsettled in net.
He continued to labor through the period and a collision with Brandon Saad certainly didn't help matters; the Chicago winger drove the net and made contact with Bishop's head. The play resulted in nearly a minute and a half of 5v3 time for the Lightning on which they could not convert, leaving the score tied in spite of a great opportunity to enter the third period with a lead on the road.
Saad would eventually give the Lightning the lead on a one-timer from the middle of the slot off a feed from Marian Hossa, as the back-and-forth nature of the game and this Final continued. The Hawks lead would last all of 13 seconds, however, as the Bolts transitioned quickly after the center-ice draw. Nikita Kucherov drove wide on his man and flipped a backhand to the netfront that Ondrej Palat pounced on to tie the game again, 2-2.
Both goaltenders had to make a handful of good stops to keep things tied, but it was Victor Hedman who made the game-breaking play. Driving wide over the attacking blue line, Hedman drew coverage to him before flipping a perfect centering pass onto the stick of Cedric Paquette, who tapped it into an empty cage with just over 3 minutes remaining for a 3-2 Lightning lead.
The Hawks pushed back in the game's final moments, but Ben Bishop somehow kept everything out to preserve the lead and get the 3-2 road win in Game 3 that puts the Lightning ahead 2-1 in the series and restores home ice advantage.
- Jonathan Drouin took warm-ups, but was a late scratch. Jon Cooper opted for an 11F-7D alignment once again, so Nikita Nesterov drew in skating just 4:57 in 10 shifts (3 in the third period).
- After much hoopla, speculation, and downright bad journalism, Ben Bishop did indeed start and finish the game for the Bolts. Andrei Vasilevskiy dressed as the back-up, and Kristers Gudlevskis arrived to United Center with the main team, not the black aces.
- Still, watching this game was very difficult at times. Bishop ended the night with a .947 save percentage and deserves the praise being heaped on him today. But there were a lot of bounces (and missed shots) that went his way which cannot be expected to continue. If he can't move the way he's normally able to, the Lightning have to consider using another goaltender if they want to close out this series -- as difficult as it may be to take that chance to finish out a Final away may be.
- Johnny Oduya left the ice midway through the 2nd period, leaving Chicago with three defensemen that take regular shifts, but eventually returned and skated 16:47 on the night. Still, this is something to monitor moving forward. Chicago's top 4 D are critical to their success. Kyle Cumiskey's awful coverage in front on the game-winner is at testament to that.
- The Lightning improved their League-leading road record in the playoffs to 8-3. Their eight playoff road wins set a franchise record, passing the seven recorded during their run to the 2004 Stanley Cup (7-3). The NHL record for road wins in one playoff year is 10, last achieved by the Kings in 2012 (10-1).
- The team that has won Game 3 after a split of the opening two contests of the Final has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 21 of 26 times (80.8%) since the series adopted the best-of-seven format in 1939.