WINNIPEG – Ben Bishop stepped up when the Tampa Bay Lightning needed him most.
Although they were outshot 42-27, Bishop kept the Lightning in the game as Tampa Bay downed the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Friday.
“He was the factor in the first two periods for sure,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “You need that last line of defence and if you’re going to win some games and you want to put yourself in a position to be in the playoffs, you need goaltending.”
Bishop gave was modest, giving credit to his team’s defensive play.
“We went out and got some key acquisitions in the summer,” said Bishop. “Everybody that plays, plays well and it was no different tonight.”
The Lightning were without one of their top defencemen. Victor Hedman is out four to six weeks with a fractured finger and the team lost forwards Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn on this road trip as well.
Right winger J.T. Brown left Friday night’s game in the first period.
“It’s part of the game,” Bishop said of the rash of injuries. “It happens to every team. Right now it’s happening to us a little more.”
Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat scored as the Lightning (5-2-1) took the fourth game of a five-game road trip that has seen them go 3-1-0. Nikita Kucherov picked up three assists.
Bryan Little scored a moral victory for the Jets (2-5-0), when his wrist shot from the slot at 5:33 of the second period finally made Winnipeg’s power play successful and brought the Jets briefly within one goal.
It was Winnipeg’s first power-play goal of the season. Blake Wheeler scored the Jets’ second goal in the third period.
“They’re definitely an offensive team and they took advantage of the opportunities we gave them tonight,” said Little. “But it’s the kind of game that gives you a sour taste in your mouth because we made a couple of big mistakes they took advantage of, but for most of the game I thought we outplayed them.”
Wheeler agreed with his linemate.
“Ninety-five per cent of that game we were pretty in control of and playing really well and their chances were good chances and they capitalized,” said Wheeler.
He gave Bishop credit but said the Jets didn’t make the best of the chances he presented.
“He kicked out some rebounds and we can do a better job of getting on those rebounds, those second chances.”
Coach Paul Maurice said it wasn’t so much the chances they had but the ones they gave up that were the problem.
“The quality of the chances we gave up was too high . . . It was just positional and fairly basic things,” he said.
Lightning sniper Stamkos scored his sixth of the season at 4:41 of the first to get things started off a feed from Drouin. They got a two-on-one against Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec after a missed pinch.
It was Stamkos who finished the give-and-go with a puck on Pavelec’s stick side that the Winnipeg goalie had little chance of stopping.
Drouin added his own at 4:45 of the second, his NHL first, and Namestnikov tipped Palat’s shot past Pavelec on a power play at 12:52 to make it 3-1.
Then Palat put one of his own past his Czech countryman with less than two minutes to go in the period to make it 4-1. Pavelec was pulled after the second and replaced by Michael Hutchinson.
At one point the Jets were ahead 28-12 on shots in the second but they just couldn’t get anything past Bishop.
They kept up the pressure and Wheeler was finally rewarded when he flipped one into an open corner of Bishop’s net at 10:19 of the third.
Winnipeg’s power play continued to fail them in the first, even with a five-on-three, although it helped them take a 16-12 lead in shots at the end of the period. But there was a huge roar of approval from the crowd when Little finally broke the jinx.
Their best pressure and some of their best scoring chances followed the five-on-three power-play and Tampa Bay called a time out to slow things down.
The Lightning were well-rested after a two-day break following a pair of games in Alberta. They end their road trip Saturday in Minnesota.
Injured defenceman Radko Gudas returned to the lineup Friday night after missing four games with a lower-body injury. He got in a scrap with Dustin Byfuglien after a high stick that gave Winnipeg their five-on-three, and was slammed to the ice by the hulking Jet in the fracas.
Notes: Andrew Ladd picked up his 199th career assist Friday night on Little’s goal and needs only one more goal himself to hit 100 with the franchise.