TAMPA, Fla. — As Ben Bishop felt the pain from an injury that would change the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff outlook, center Steven Stamkos consoled his goaltender with a hug following the first period of that fateful April 8 game.
Bishop had landed awkwardly on his left elbow and dislocated it on a sprawling glove save just 5:43 into the 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Bishop made three saves before exiting. Trainers popped the elbow back into place when he reached the locker room. However, he knew a dream of playing in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was likely over.
"I actually started crying," Bishop said Thursday. "I knew that we worked all year to get here, and I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to play in the first round. It was tough. It was tough then. It was tough to watch. It was hard."
Bishop, who finished with a 37-14-7 record and a .924 save percentage, offered a number of medical insights Thursday during the Lightning’s exit interviews at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
He said he "probably" could have played in a Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens had the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series gone that far. He also said he tore ligaments in his right wrist during warm-ups before a Jan. 5 game at Edmonton, and he re-injured it Feb. 6 in a home loss to Toronto.
Bishop plans to have surgery on the wrist next week in Cleveland. He said he will be in a cast for about six weeks afterward, but he hopes to have the issue resolved within three to four months.
"We were laughing about it: As a goalie, how do you hurt your upper-body — your wrist and your elbow?" Bishop said. "Usually, it’s the groin or something in the lower-body. I look at the year — I felt I was hurt a little bit. But I still played a lot of games."
Bishop started a career-high 63 games during a year in which he emerged as Tampa Bay’s clear choice in net. He closed with a 2.23 goals-against average and five shutouts. He had never appeared in more than 13 during a single season when he did so with the Ottawa Senators in 2012-13.
Goaltenders Anders Lindback and Kristers Gudlevskis played in his absence, and at times, both reserves showed flashes. They finished a combined 4-0 to close the regular season and helped Tampa Bay earn home-ice advantage against Montreal. But Bishop’s absence proved too much to overcome against the Canadiens, who outscored the Lightning 16-10 in the four-game sweep that ended Tuesday.
"Bish is a great goalie," Stamkos said. "A lot of people don’t realize you need to be healthy. That was a thing that, obviously, we were missing a big piece."
Added coach Jon Cooper: "It’s pretty remarkable what he did, how he came through. When he wasn’t injured pretty much pre-Olympic break, he was an elite goaltender in this league. After he started getting banged up, I think you saw his play tail off a little bit. It still was exceptional. It just wasn’t where he had been before.
"When you’re hurt, it’s tough. You start thinking about different things. It just wasn’t one thing with him."