RALEIGH, N.C. – Ben Bishop made quite a first impression on his new Tampa Bay teammates.
The tall goalie earned a shutout in his debut with the Lightning, leading them to a 5-0 rout of the reeling Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Bishop, acquired a day earlier from Ottawa in exchange for promising rookie Cory Conacher, stopped a career-high 45 shots.
“It just got to the point where they were like, ‘Bishop has this,'” coach Jon Cooper said.
Teddy Purcell, Tom Pyatt and Keith Aulie scored during the Lightning’s three-goal second period that broke open a scoreless game.
“Sometimes I’m going to have to be sharp, and sometimes guys are going to have to block some shots in front of me,” Bishop said. “They did their job there in the first to keep it a 0-0 game. The offence took over there in the third, and the guys played great in front of me.”
Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists, Benoit Pouliot added a goal and an assist, and NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos had two assists to help Tampa Bay earn points for the fourth straight game.
The Lightning moved into a tie with Carolina for third in the mediocre Southeast Division.
“It’s big for the team—there’s no individuals here,” Bishop said. “We’re chasing a playoff spot and really just wanted to get off to the right foot and do that with a win.”
Dan Ellis stopped 25 shots for the reeling Hurricanes, who outshot Tampa Bay 45-30 but dropped their 10th in 11 games.
They were flying high when they led Washington 2-0 on March 14, but went on to lose that game 3-2. That blown lead started a slide in which they have been outscored 41-15—42-15 if you count the goal the Rangers were awarded for their shootout win on March 18.
“It’s a little fragile,” coach Kirk Muller said. “We’re getting enough scoring chances to win hockey games. We’re outshooting teams. It seems like we say that every night, but we make a breakdown and it’s in our net. We’ve just got to find a way to eliminate that.”
Bishop became the latest goalie to beat them. He earned his third career shutout and second of the season while improving to 5-1 in his last six games.
His imposing 6-foot-7 frame between the pipes proved impossible to beat for a Carolina team that has lost 11 of 15 games against the Southeast and was blanked for the third time and first since Feb. 26 at Washington.
“He’s big,” St. Louis said, “and he plays really big.”
The Lightning, who improved to 4-0 against the Hurricanes this season with all three victories coming by at least three goals, welcomed back captain Vincent Lecavalier, who missed nine games with an unspecified lower body injury.
He didn’t score—but then again, he didn’t need to. Not with his teammates striking so often in the second period.
Purcell started it just 26 seconds in when he tapped the rebound of Matthew Carle’s shot from the blue line. Pyatt made it 2-0 with 4:05 left in the second when he redirected Alex Killorn’s shot past Ellis moments after a faceoff. And Aulie capped it with a shot that clicked off the crossbar and in with 42.4 seconds left.
“We started putting pucks to the net,” Carle said. “We had a pretty nice faceoff play there, and that got the confidence going.”
Two distressing trends continued during that brutal 20-minute stretch for the Hurricanes. They’ve given up a goal in the first minute of the second period in two straight games and gave up a goal in the final minute of a period three times in two games.
“Honestly, I think we’re playing good hockey. I need to make a save,” Ellis said. “That first goal, it’s a crappy rebound and it changes the momentum of a game. And right now, the way our team is, we need those saves. You need your goalie to go in there and steal a game for you, especially at a time like this where things are difficult to get wins, and I didn’t do that tonight.”
It came after the Hurricanes blew a prime chance to take a lead in the final minute of the first.
Alexander Semin stole the puck from Dana Tyrell to start a 2-on-1 break. But Semin clearly kicked Eric Staal’s give-and-go feed into the net and a quick video review took the goal off the board.
NOTES: The Lightning also hit the post at least three times. … Carle also finished with two assists for Tampa Bay. … The Hurricanes have lost six straight at home. … Carolina C Tuomo Ruutu returned after missing two games with a lower body injury. He skated on the Hurricanes’ No. 2 line with C Jordan Staal and LW Jeff Skinner.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at (at)JoedyAP.