Game 41: Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames

Ben Bishop joins Tuukka Rask atop the NHL shutout leaderboard with a 19-save shutout of the struggling Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

If you asked Ben Bishop, he'd probably tell you it was just another day at the office.

The Tampa Bay Lightning did a good job of limiting opportunities for the Calgary Flames until the game was well in hand, and Bishop was fantastic when called upon stopping all 19 shots faced and leading the Lightning to a 2-0 lead in Calgary.

Like two nights ago against the Vancouver Canucks, the Bolts got off to a quick start against the Flames, using speed through the neutral zone and keeping the puck in Calgary's end. The Flames' only foray early in front of Ben Bishop resulted in a hit by Kevin Westgarth on Bishop that resulted in a post-whistle scrum and a Tampa Bay power play, where Flames netminder Karri Ramo was forced to make a couple of nice saves on Tyler Johnson from the left circle. The Bolts managed 5 shots on goal on that 2 minute advantage but came up empty.

Westgarth would drop the gloves later in the period with Ryan Malone, the only real scrapper left on the roster with B.J. Crombeen a healthy scratch and Pierre-Cedric Labrie down with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.

The best chance for Calgary in the opening frame came with under 5 minutes remaining in the period. Mark Barberio rotated in deep to pressure the puck carrier, with Tyler Johnson back on the right point backing him up. But Johnson's point slapper was blocked by Michael Backlund, sending the Flames forward in on a partial breakaway with only Eric Brewer in position to make a play on defense.

Brewer -- not exactly fleet of foot -- was forced to hook Backlund to break up the play, which drew a call from the official as the puck glided in harmless on Ben Bishop's pads. But the whistle blew quickly, negating what would have been a rebound goal from Mike Cammaleri, who snapped one behind Bishop after the whistle. It was quickly waved off and the Flames went on their first power play of the game.

Calgary managed a little bit of puck movement and attempts towards the Tampa Bay net, but not much in the way of dangerous scoring chances, as the Lightning penalty kill did a good job of keeping discipline in their passing and shooting lanes and rotating to cover the puck. After the successful kill, the Bolts went right back to work at 5v5, finishing the period with a 13-5 shot advantage and controlling play for nearly the entire period.

4v4 but neither team could capitalize with the extra open ice. But just after the 4v4 and Tampa Bay's brief power play expired, Teddy Purcell found Ondrej Palat in a seam in the slot. Palat looked off Ramo with the threat of a pass to Tyler Johnson at the goalmouth and then lifted a quick wrist shot to the top shelf before Ramo could react, opening the scoring and giving the Bolts a deserved 1-0 lead.

After another failed power play midway through the second period, Nikita Kucherov finished off a play on the rush with a tap-in goal from the left side of the net to extend the Lightning lead to 2-0 as the Lightning continued to dominate control of the puck through much of the first period and a half.

Perhaps one area of concern for the Lightning is keeping their composure and staying out of the penalty box, particularly when holding a lead on the road. Radko Gudas went to the box after a good offensive zone shift by the Mikael Backlund line, putting Calgary back to the man advantage with a chance to get back in the game, something that the Bolts need to try to avoid doing in the future.

The uninspiring special teams play continued through the middle frame as the teams traded fruitless man advantages in the period,

Calgary started to mount some pressure in the back half of the third period with a couple of terrific chances from both Paul Byron and Matt Stajan, but Ben Bishop held strong in the net and turned away everything he saw in the final frame to hold on to the 2-0 lead.

Game Notes
  • It may be nitpicking a little bit, but it seems odd to carry contracts like those of B.J. Crombeen and Pierre-Cedric Labrie only to healthy scratch one and send the other to the AHL. While the merits of a true enforcer are not something I'll often endorse, it seems weird to carry those players and not play them, leaving oft-injured Ryan Malone to go to battle when the situation requires. Not that Malone isn't capable; but it's usually a bad trade off when you're losing Malone for someone on the opposition who skates less than 8 minutes per game.
  • Calgary has been shutout now 3 out their last 4 games at the not-so-friendly Scotiabank Saddledome and 5 out of the last 9 games overall, as Ben Bishop and the Lightning held them off the scoresheet for the full 60 minutes. Not to dump cold water on what was another terrific performance in net by Bishop, but the Flames have been less than ignited as of late. Still, winning games you ought to win is a hallmark of good teams, and Bishop and the Bolts took care of business again, on the road.
  • Furthermore, the 19-save shutout comes in front of Brian Burke, part of the USA Hockey brain trust that left Bishop off the roster for Sochi in February, instead opting for the recently rehabilitated Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Special teams weren't so special for either club, as both finished 0/5 with the man advantage. Granted, one power play each was very brief, but neither club managed too many dangerous looks while up a man.
  • Ryan Malone skated a team-low 7:01 of total time on ice. His plummet down the depth chart has been a fascinating story this season as he's now essentially filling the role vacated by Labrie and Crombeen. Few will even recall that he started the year on left wing with Steven Stamkos in October playing over 15 minutes a night including top PP minutes...
  • The Lightning controlled just a shade over 50% of all shot attempts (Corsi) for the evening, but that number is skewed a bit by a late surge from Calgary as they pressed to try and get back into the game late with Tampa Bay essentially in a defensive shell.
  • As for individuals, the Lightning were paced by Victor Hedman (66.7% Corsi For) and Nikita Kucherov (also 66.7% Corsi For) as the youngest players on the roster continue to make big contributions. The improved puck possession game throughout the lineup has been a big reason for the Bolts' continued success without Steven Stamkos, and makes them a real threat to wreak some havoc in the playoffs if they can keep this up once Stamkos returns.