TAMPA – While Martin Brodeur and the Devils entered the contest boasting a shutout in their last meeting against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ben Bishop returned the favor in a record-setting 3-0 whitewash of New Jersey Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"It was like you were in the middle of a chest match against a very structured team," head coach Jon Cooper said. "Everybody's following each other's moves and he just made the big saves when he had to."
The victory that helped the Bolts avoid the season series sweep put Bishop at 31 wins on the season and sets a franchise record for wins in a single season. Nikolai Khabibulin had previously held the record with 30 wins during the 2002-03 campaign.
"It's a nice accomplishment," Bishop said, "but a whole lot of credit goes to the guys in front of me. I don't get that without them."
It was also fitting that Tampa Bay played a complete game and held on to a 2-0 lead for nearly the entire second half of the contest, as it had become notorious for giving up leads in the third, especially when up by two goals.
"The way we played tonight not only wins games in the regular season," Cooper said. "It wins games in the playoffs."
Though J.T. Brown missed on a penalty shot he was awarded after he was tripped up on a breakaway by New Jersey's Jon Merrill in the second, the Lightning still ended up being the beneficiary. Immediately after Brodeur stopped his first penalty shot attempt of the season, B.J. Crombeen put the Bolts ahead. Michael Kostka took a shot from the blueline, which Crombeen deflected past the Devils' netminder at 12:26. The tally was his first since January 23.
Kostka then earned his second point and first goal of the game four and a half minutes later by backhanding the puck past Brodeur stick side for a 2-0 lead at 16:58 of the middle frame. Kostka now has five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games with Tampa Bay.
"We were able to get a few chances to score a couple goals," Filppula said. "When that happens they are forced to open up a little bit and it gives us more opportunity to be in their zone."
"It's one of our defense's goals to jump in on offense, especially against a team like New Jersey," Kostka said. "They really lock it down through the neutral zone and defensively we were trying to do whatever we could to chip in offensively from the back end as well."
With 10 minutes left in the contest the Devils had an opportunity to show why they have one of the best power plays in the league; however the Lightning fought off Brown's goaltender interference call to build on the Bolts' momentum. Brown then redeemed himself by feeding a pass to Nate Thompson for the Bolts' third goal of the game at 16:41, as it ended in a 3-0 final.
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay closes out their six-game homestand Monday against the Vancouver Canucks in a night where they will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Stanley Cup-winning team from 2003-04. The Lightning then encounter a stretch where five of its next seven games come on the road, which includes a three-game road trip next week versus division rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, as well as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins.