TAMPA — At various points last season, Tampa Bay Lightning LW Alex Killorn played on the top line with C Steven Stamkos and RW Marty St. Louis. While that might have been an intimidating assignment then, it’s a role the 24-year-old now feels comfortable filling when asked to play with two of the top players in the game.
“Last year was a different situation, because I was trying to stay up (in the NHL) and prove myself,’’ Killorn said. “This year I have more confidence, and when you play with those guys you always want to get them the puck and do certain things. But with the confidence this year, it’s not too intimidating playing with them.’’
Though Killorn has been bumped up to the top line during a couple of games this season, Friday in Carolina was the first time Killorn started a game with that line, and the trio combined for two goals, three assists and 19 shots in a 3-0 victory.
Using Killorn on the top line is an idea coach Jon Cooper had flirted with since before the season, but he did not want to make the move at the beginning of the year. But as the offensive production started to get a little stale and he thought the lines needed juggling, Cooper made the move. He had the confidence that Killorn would no longer get too caught up in trying to get the puck to Stamkos and St. Louis.
“One of the things is to say to him, because of who those players are, I don’t want you to feel obligated to pass to them,” Cooper said. “You make hockey plays, you don’t make Marty and Stammer plays, because Stammer and Marty make enough of those plays for us. We need Killer to use his speed, his strength and his playmaking ability to get those guys the puck and then get into areas where he can score.’’
The line was responsible for the first goal on Saturday, with Killorn scoring his fourth of the season in the first period.
G Ben Bishop became the first goaltender in franchise history to record eight wins in his first 10 decisions, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Bishop, originally drafted by St. Louis and acquired from Ottawa, picked up his eighth win in shutout fashion, stopping all 31 shots he faced Friday. It marked the second shutout (out of four in his career) that Bishop has posted at PNC Arena in Raleigh. Bishop made his Lightning debut on April 4 in Carolina with a 45-save performance.
Heading into Saturday, Bishop had allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his 10 starts this season.
Bishop started on consecutive nights for the first time this season, with a four-day layoff in the schedule factoring into Cooper’s decision, among other thoughts.
“How do you take a goaltender out that has been hot, coming off a great game the night before and we haven’t played a ton of games this week,’’ Cooper said. “There is some rest coming up, he’s done this before in the American (Hockey) League, so it’s nothing new to play multiple games in a row.’’
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock was asked Saturday morning if he had any previous knowledge or relationship with Cooper, who used to coach the St. Louis Bandits in the North American Hockey League. Said Hitchcock: “No. I had to look at a video to see what he looked like, to be honest with you.”
Nuts and Bolts
D Victor Hedman’s winning goal on Friday in Carolina was the first of his career. ... D Mark Barberio collected his first career point with an assist on a second-period goal by Stamkos. ... D Keith Aulie, D Andrej Sustr and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie were scratched. ... Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson are serving as captains for this year’s Movember movement, growing a mustache to help raise money for prostate and testicular cancer research. Fans can join a team of their choice at www.tampabaylightning.com/movember. The top 25 fundraisers will receive a pair of tickets to the Nov. 29 game. A contest will also be held via photo submission on Twitter @TBLightning and Facebook, with a pair of season tickets for the rest of the season to the winner, to be announced on Nov. 29.