CALGARY – Ben Bishop’s breakout season continued Friday night.
Bishop made 19 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Tampa Bay Lightning, on goals from rookies Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, won 2-0 over the Calgary Flames.
Bishop, who stands six-foot-seven, has picked up points in 10 straight games (8-0-2) and is 22-5-2 on the season. He is tied with Boston’s Tuukka Rask for the 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,” said Bishop. “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 shrugged off any disappointment in 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,” said Bishop, who has seven shutouts in 76 career games.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper complimented Bishop for how he handled the situation in which the three goalies selected by USA Hockey were Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
“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 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.”
On the season, Bishop had the NHL’s top save percentage at .936 and he ranks third with a 1.83 goals-against average.
“Ben’s been the answer for 41 games so far this year and hopefully he can continue to play the way he’s been playing,” Cooper said.
In the midst of a on a 7-1-1 roll, the win moves Tampa Bay (25-12-4) within two points of the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins.
“I’ve watched this team grow from an offensive-minded , which the organization has been for a while, into a team that says you better get more than two goals on us to beat us. It’s a formula that you can win with,” Cooper said.
Calgary (14-21-6) wraps up a five-game homestand with four straight regulation losses.
It started with much promise as the Flames posted a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the St. Louis Blues in the last game before Christmas. Since the break, the offence has all but dried up with Calgary only scoring one goal, by rookie Sean Monahan, in the last 245 minutes five seconds.
“We’re not good enough. We’ve got to find a way to generate more,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “Every mistake right now is magnified because we’re not scoring goals. We’re wasting pretty good efforts from our goaltenders.”
The Flames got defenceman Dennis Wideman back after he missed 16 games with a broken hand but even with his presence on the power play, Calgary couldn’t connect going 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Flames winger Lee Stempniak. “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.”
Both Lightning goals in the second period came less than 10 seconds after minor penalties to veteran Calgary forward Mike Cammalleri had expired.
Teddy Purcell found Palat open in the slot and he sent a quick wrist shot into the top corner on Karri Ramo at 5:23.
Five minutes later, Kucherov scored with a wrist shot off a setup from Palat.
Palat extends his points streak to five games (two goals, four assists).
“I feel like every game, my confidence is getting better,” said the 22-year-old from the Czech Republic. “We have a young team but we play fast, we play good. Even without Stammer (Steven Stamkos), he’s a big player to be missing, we’re just playing good.”
Making his first start in five games, Ramo was excellent for the Flames. 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 on the game in falling to 6-7-3.
He was especially sharp in the third period too. As Calgary pressed to get back into the game, the Lightning were able to counter with some dangerous chances including three breakaways, each of them stopped.
Notes: Tampa Bay is 13-7-4 since 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 regulation time wins 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 last in the NHL ahead of only Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov (minus-25).