TAMPA — Ben Bishop etched his name in to the Lightning record book in a memorable manner.
The Tampa Bay goaltender made 23 saves in a 3-0 victory Saturday against New Jersey to become the all-time single-season record holder in franchise history with 31 wins in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.
Bishop, who registered his fifth shutout of the season and eighth of his career, surpassed Nikolai Khabibulin's previous franchise record of 30 set during the 2002-03 season.
“It's a nice accomplishment,'' said Bishop, whose five shutouts on the season are tied for second most in team history. “I owe a lot of credit to the guys in front of me, I don't get there without them. To me it's a team thing, I don't really look at it as an individual thing.''
The victory for Tampa Bay gave the Lightning back-to-back wins for the first time since a three-game winning streak from Jan. 19-25 and marks the second time in nine games coming out of the Olympic break Tampa Bay has allowed fewer than three goals. The Lightning moved to within a point of idle Toronto for second place in the Atlantic Division standings and increased its lead over ninth-place Detroit to six points with 15 games remaining on the season.
Valtteri Filppula had a pair of assists, defenseman Mike Kostka had a goal and an assist while B.J. Crombeen - a healthy scratch the previous four games - notched his third goal of the season for what proved to be the game-winner. Nate Thompson added a late goal to put the game away with his ninth of the season.
After starting a six-game homestand with a loss to Buffalo, Tampa Bay is 2-0-2 in the past four.
“I thought the guys played outstanding,'' Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Everybody was pushing every other line, it was a really positive feeling of this is working for us. I told the guys tonight in the room that the way we played tonight not only wins games in the regular season but it wins games in the playoffs.''
For Bishop it was a nice bounce-back effort after enduring his most difficult stretch of the season. Since returning from the Olympic break he posted a 2-3-2 record in seven starts with a 3.09 goals against average and .895 save percentage entering Saturday.
But his shutout of New Jersey marked the 37th time in 52 starts this season he has allowed two or fewer goals.
“We are watching the growth of Ben Bishop, he's picking up points for us,'' Cooper said. “He's been that guy that let's up two or less for most of the year, and when you let in that third one, but the one thing about Bish, and I've really watched him grow this year, he wants that next start. He's not shying away from it. . . . you want to be a starting goalie in this league, that's what you have to do.''
With his 52 games played this season, Bishop has surpassed the most played in a single season in his career at any level. Despite the unchartered territory in regards to his workload, he said he feels fine both mentally and physically.
“I'm hanging in there, the body is doing all right,'' Bishop said. “It's not hard to get up for games in this league playing good teams every night.''
Against New Jersey, it was a typical tight-defensive affair through 30 minutes until Tampa Bay broke through when Crombeen deflected a Kostka center-point shot from between the hashmarks at 12:26 of the second period, which game less than 90 seconds after J.T. Brown was stopped on his first career penalty shot attempt . Kostka then jumped down low to take a backhand pass from Ondrej Palat for a 2-0 lead with 3:02 left in the second period.
Tampa Bay locked it down defensively from that point, limiting the quality chances Bishop had to face before Thompson redirected Brown's pass with 3:19 left to play to provide all the support Bishop would need to close things out, just as Bishop has done for most of the season.
“You can see where we are in the standings and he's been a huge part of it,'' Filppula said. “When he plays like that we have a good chance to win.''
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