Sudden thoughts and second thoughts on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers Friday night at Madison Square Garden, vaulting them into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since they won it all back in 2004:
Bishop beats King: The undeniable storyline heading into Game 7 was the dominance of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who had won six straight Game 7s and had won 15 of his last 18 elimination games. But it was Ben Bishop who stole the Manhattan spotlight, turning aside all 22 shots he faced to earn the shutout.
Bishop was pulled in Game 6 after allowing five goals in a 7-3 loss, but stood tall [6-foot-7, to be exact] for the Lightning, improving his playoff record to 12-8 – not bad for a third-round pick of the Blues who bounced from St. Louis to Ottawa before finally landing a starting job in Tampa. Bishop has a pretty good track record when it comes to bouncing back from playoff losses. He’s 7-1 with a 1.25 GAA following a loss this post-season.
As for King Hank, his legacy as a future Hall of Fame goaltender who has never won a Stanley Cup continues. Lundqvist stopped all 19 shots he faced in the first two periods, but allowed an Alex Killorn backhander to slip between his pads 1:54 into the third period for what stood up as the game-winner.
Lundqvist, 33, finished his ninth post-season with an 11-9 record, 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage and now has a career playoff record of 54-56 with a 2.22 GAA, .923 save percentage and zero Cups.
“Last year we were closer," Lundqvist said, referring to the Rangers’ five-game loss to the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. “This year we were close to the Final. But to win it, there's a lot of work left."
Trading places: Lightning forwards Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman all played for the Rangers last season, but one of the most intriguing storylines of the Eastern Conference finals was the matchup between former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis and current Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who embraced in the handshake line following Game 7.
St. Louis won a Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and mentored Stamkos when he entered the NHL in 2008.
“It was obviously satisfying because we get a chance to go to the Final," said Stamkos, who upheld the tradition of not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy [because he’s waiting for the real big silver one]. "That was way bigger than the storyline was between the former Rangers and the former Lightning players. But Marty is a competitor, he's a great friend of mine, and I'll always respect him. I told him that. He obviously wished me the best of luck.”
As for those former Rangers, Callahan, Boyle and Stralman are now a combined 17-1 in Game 7s.
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