Ben Bishop stops 19 shots as Lightning blank Flames
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Ben Bishop is having a breakout season, Olympic nod or not.
The 6-foot-7 goalie made 19 saves in his fourth shutout Friday night, sending the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-0 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Rookie forwards Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning, who have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games to move within two points of first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division.
Bishop has earned points in 10 straight games (8-0-2) and is 22-5-2 this season. He is tied with Boston’s Tuukka Rask for the NHL lead in shutouts and is one back of Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury for the most wins.
"That might have been one of our best games of the year from start to finish," Bishop said. "Seemed like we had the puck most of the game. The big thing tonight is we never took our foot off the gas. We played a full 60 minutes."
Bishop, who has seven shutouts in 76 career games, shrugged off any disappointment about not being named to the U.S. Olympic team on Wednesday.
"I just want to go out there and play my game. I thought the guys did a great job in front of me, made it easy on me," he said.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper complimented Bishop for how he’s handled the situation after the three goalies selected by USA Hockey for the Sochi Games next month were Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
Bishop has the NHL’s top save percentage at .936 and ranks third with a 1.83 goals-against average.
"I understand the decision USA Hockey made, I completely do. They went with some experienced guys that had proven track records," Cooper said. "I’m really happy with the way he’s responded. I’m sure a lot of guys would hang their head and say, `Poor me,’ and all he’s done is elevate his game. It’s a testament to his character."
Calgary ended its five-game homestand with four straight losses in regulation. Since the Christmas break, the Flames have one goal — by rookie Sean Monahan — in the last 245 minutes, 5 seconds.
The Flames got defenseman Dennis Wideman back after he missed 16 games with a broken hand. But even with his presence on the power play, Calgary went 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
"We’re not good enough. We’ve got to find a way to generate more," captain Mark Giordano said. "Every mistake right now is magnified because we’re not scoring goals. We’re wasting pretty good efforts from our goaltenders."
Both goals in the second period came less than 10 seconds after minor penalties to veteran Calgary forward Mike Cammalleri had expired.
Shortly after Cammalleri returned from an interference call, a penalty he took while the Flames were on the man advantage, Teddy Purcell found Palat open in the slot and he sent a quick wrist shot into the top corner past Karri Ramo at 5:23.
Almost 5 minutes later, this time after Cammalleri returned from a penalty for closing his hand on the puck, the Lightning struck again. Kucherov scored with a wrist shot off a setup from Palat, who extended his point streak to five games (two goals, four assists).
Perhaps the most dangerous early chance Bishop faced came in the first period when Mikael Backlund was hooked down on a partial breakaway by Eric Brewer.
The Flames were unable to generate much on the resulting power play.
Making his first start in five games, Ramo was excellent. Playing against the team that drafted him in 2006, Ramo was perfect on 13 shots in the first period, keeping Calgary in the game.
He made 27 saves in all and fell to 6-7-3.
Ramo was especially sharp in the third period, too. As the Flames pressed to get back into the game, the Lightning were able to counter with some dangerous chances, including three breakaways that were stopped.
"It’s extremely frustrating," Flames wing Lee Stempniak said. "We definitely feel like we’re letting the goaltenders down. They’ve played great. Every game, they’ve kept us in it and given us a chance. It’s definitely a disappointing feeling for the 18 skaters out there letting them down."
NOTES: Tampa Bay is 13-7-4 since center Steven Stamkos (broken leg) has been out of the lineup. Stamkos is back skating with full equipment now and is nearing a return. … Calgary LW Lance Bouma (ill) did not dress. … The Lightning improved to 16-1-1 when they score first. … The Flames have just two wins in regulation in their last 30 games. They’ve won seven games in overtime or a shootout during that stretch. … Cammalleri was a minus-2 to fall to minus-21 on the season, which is second-to-last in the NHL ahead of only Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov (minus-25).