NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, March 17th (All times Eastern)
Vancouver Canucks (31-29-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (36-24-7), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Ben Bishop is one of the main reasons that the Tampa Bay Lightning remain in the playoff picture despite an extended absence by Steven Stamkos due to injury.
Fresh off of setting a club record for wins in a season, Bishop will look to lead the Lightning past the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night in the finale of a six-game homestand.
Though Stamkos missed 45 games from mid-November to early March with a broken right leg, the Lightning were able to keep pace in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. With 79 points, Tampa Bay is occupying the first wild card spot and also is just one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the division.
Bishop has been a big part of that success as he is among the league leaders with 31 wins, five shutouts, a 2.10 goals against average and .929 save percentage.
The 27-year-old, in his first season as a full-time starter, had struggled to string victories together recently, but won a second outing in a row for the first time since late January with a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Bishop made 23 saves in his eighth career shutout and surpassed Nikolai Khabibulin's 2002-03 franchise record of 30 wins in a season.
"It's a nice accomplishment," Bishop said, "A a whole lot of credit goes to the guys in front of me. I don't get that without them. It's a team thing. I don't like at it as an individual thing."
Defenseman Michael Kostka scored in a second straight game and also had an assist, giving him five points in seven games since joining the Lightning off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I just try to play solid defensively when I'm on the ice," said Kostka. "But it's nice to be able to chip in with a goal when I have the chance."
B.J. Crombeen and Nate Thompson also scored in the victory, Tampa Bay's second straight following an 0-3-2 drought.
The Canucks also are hoping to string together back-to-back victories and a win tonight would give the club its first winning streak since consecutive triumphs on Jan. 18 and 21. Vancouver has won two of three on a four-game road trip after besting the Florida Panthers 4-3 yesterday in a shootout.
Vancouver was facing Roberto Luongo for the first time since dealing him to the Panthers on March 4. Luongo made 29 saves, but also yielded the lone goal of the shootout to the Canucks' Nicklas Jensen.
Eddie Lack, whose production as a rookie this season led to Luongo being dealt, ended with 26 saves and stopped all three skaters in the shootout.
Dan Hamhuis and Alexandre Burrows scored in regulation for the Canucks, who escaped with two points after giving up a game-tying goal with 1:35 left in regulation.
"Especially the way the game was tied up there at the end, to get the win was huge for us," said Jensen.
Vancouver won for just the third time in its last nine games (3-5-1) and improved to 3-12-1 in its past 16 on the road. The victory also pulled the Canucks to within three points of the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
The Canucks have lost four of their past six versus the Lightning, including a 4-2 defeat at home on Jan. 1. Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula both had a goal and an assist, while Bishop made 28 saves.
Lack yielded four goals on 33 shots for the Canucks, who have won four of their past six in Tampa.
Both Bishop and Lack faced their respective opponent for the first time in their career in that earlier meeting.
03/17 10:34:09 ET