Light­ning may go to its backup plan in net

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - HE­LENE EL­LIOTT

CHICAGO — Just as the Tampa Bay Light­ning’s of­fense got healthy, goal­tender Ben Bishop was stricken by an undis­closed ail­ment or in­jury that forced him to yield the net to rookie An­drei Vasilevskiy twice in the third pe­riod Satur­day. Bishop was in the locker room when Tampa Bay wrapped up its 4-3 victory over the Chicago Black­hawks and tied the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal at one game each, and his de­par­tures were never ex­plained.

Jon Cooper tried to de­fer ques­tions on Bishop’s sta­tus Sun­day by evok­ing the prickly de­meanor of one of his coach­ing pre­de­ces­sors. “In honor of the 11-year an­niver­sary of our or­ga­niza-

tion’s first Stan­ley Cup, how would John Tor­torella an­swer that ques­tion?” Cooper said.

Tor­torella wouldn’t an­swer, that’s how. “I’ll just leave it at that,” Cooper said.

But in say­ing he didn’t know who will start Mon­day at the United Cen­ter, Cooper said a lot. “I don’t, which would tell you, if I don’t know, that Bish could be avail­able,” Cooper said at a news con­fer­ence Sun­day.

Rus­sian-born Vasilevskiy, 20, stopped five shots in 9:13 for his ap­pre­cia­tive team­mates. “If Bish can’t go [Mon­day], is that a blow to us? Sure it is,” Cooper said. “But do we think the se­ries is lost be­cause Vasilevskiy is go­ing in? Not a chance. I look at our tan­dem, I’d like to stack them up against any tan­dem in the league be­cause I think we’ve got 1 and 1A.”

The key dif­fer­ences are Bishop’s height — he’s 6 feet 7 to Vasilevskiy’s 6-3 — his ex­pe­ri­ence and his su­perb puck-han­dling skills. How­ever, de­fense­man Bray­don Coburn said Vasilevskiy’s pres­ence wouldn’t al­ter the team’s break­outs or other strat­egy. “As long as they don’t need me to back up or any­thing like that, it doesn’t change any­thing for me,” Coburn said.

It’s ap­par­ently all the same to the Black­hawks too. “I don’t re­ally care who’s go­ing to be in the net. I know they’re good goalies both,” said Finnish for­ward Teuvo Ter­a­vainen, who briefly gave Chicago a 2-1 lead Satur­day with a ris­ing shot dur­ing a sec­ond-pe­riod power play. “Es­pe­cially, I’ve played against Vasilevskiy twice with the in­ter­na­tional team, so I know him a lit­tle bit. I think I’ve scored on him be­fore too.”

Chicago goal­tender Corey Craw­ford couldn’t cite an in­jury or ill­ness to ex­plain his sub-par per­for­mance Satur­day. At least he didn’t miss when he blamed him­self for two goals, a de­flec­tion by Nikita Kucherov and a sharp-an­gled shot by Tyler John­son that plopped off Craw­ford’s back and into the net. He did have to con­tend with more screens and traf­fic in front of him than he did in Game 1, and his team­mates will have to clean that up.

“He’s shown through­out his ca­reer that he can bounce back and be­come the guy that we need and every­body ex­pects him to be,” de­fense­man Brent Seabrook said. “We could have helped him out a lot more than we did.”

The big­ger im­pact of those two goals might be fu­el­ing the con­fi­dence of the “Triplets,” Kucherov, John­son and On­drej Palat, who were held score­less in Game 1. John­son ended a per­sonal five-game drought and has given the line 30 of the Light­ning’s 60 post­sea­son goals. He has a play­off-lead­ing 13, with Kucherov at 10 and Palat at seven.

The Black­hawks’ top line of Bran­don Saad, Jonathan Toews and Pa­trick Kane had no goals Satur­day for the sec­ond straight game, and Kane didn’t have a shot on goal. It’s likely the trio will be split up Mon­day. Mar­ian Hossa, who has no goals in the first two games — also the case for Toews, Saad and Pa­trick Sharp — prob­a­bly will move along­side Saad and Toews. That would put Kane with Brad Richards and pos­si­bly Bryan Bick­ell, who missed the first two games for undis­closed rea­sons. Coach Joel Quen­neville said Bick­ell and de­fense­man Trevor van Riems­dyk could play Mon­day.

“As an of­fen­sive guy you want to be help­ing pro­duce, es­pe­cially at this time of year,” said Kane, who has 111 points in 112 ca­reer play­off games. “But we said all along, with our team we don’t re­ally care where the goals come from, as long as they’re com­ing from our team.

“I think I can help in that area. That’s one of the rea­sons I’m on the team. That’s one of my jobs here, is to try to pro­duce of­fense. Hope­fully start that up next game.”

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