The Tampa Bay Lightning kept on rolling in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, besting the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 Friday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, but lost its No. 1 goaltender in the process.
The win was the Lightning’s fifth-straight, going back to the second round when the club beat the New York Islanders in four-straight games after dropping the opening contest of that series. Tampa Bay moves to 9-2 overall in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay’s victory comes with a potentially devastating setback, however, as starting netminder Ben Bishop went down with an apparent lower-body injury in the latter half of the first period. He was carted off on a stretcher and didn’t return. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper revealed after the game that X-rays came back negative. However, there was no timeline for a return provided.
Bishop’s injury was the worst of a bizarre opening 20 minutes which saw Penguins defenseman Kris Letang briefly leave the game after receiving a hit from behind from Tampa Bay winger Ryan Callahan, and also had Lightning center Tyler Johnson leave late in the period following a knee-on-knee collision with Pittsburgh winger Chris Kunitz, although Johnson returned as well midway through the second frame. Adding to the injury chaos late in the game was Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who left with just under five minutes to play after getting driven into the boards hard by Bolts winger Ondrej Palat.
The Lightning was playing with fire early, as Callahan’s hit on Letang drew a five-minute boarding major just under three minutes into the game, putting the third-best playoff power play to work. The Penguins put four shots on goal during the man advantage, but couldn’t make Callahan pay.
Center Alex Killorn got the scoring started for Tampa Bay with just over a minute to go in the first period when he fought off Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta to break in alone at the faceoff circle and went backhand five-hole on goaltender Matt Murray.
On the power play two-and-a-half minutes into the second stanza, Palat collected a rebound off a Valtteri Filppula shot and slid a backhander past Murray to give Tampa a 2-0 lead.
Winger Jonathan Drouin lifted a one-timer over the glove of Murray off a two-on-one, cross-ice pass from Palat to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 advantage with 1:35 left in the second.
Forty seconds later, Pens winger Patric Hornqvist buried a no-look pass from center Sidney Crosby with a snap shot on the power play to make it a 3-1 game heading into the second intermission.
Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 16-5 in the third period in a valiant push to narrow the gap, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves in relief of Bishop to secure the Game 1 win.
Game 2 goes Monday night at 8 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.