NEW YORK — Goaltender Ben Bishop has been everything to the Lightning this season, its unquestioned MVP, a big reason why he's expected to contend for the Vezina Trophy.
And now there's more pressure on his sturdy 6-foot-7 frame, considering the significant injuries to captain Steven Stamkos and top defenseman Anton Stralman.
But Bishop can't do it all by himself, as evident in Monday's 5-2 loss to the Islanders at the Barclays Center. Bishop was pulled — for just the second time in 60 games this season — after allowing five goals in 23 shots. It was a mercy removal, Bishop having to face four breakaways in the second period alone.
"We didn't think about our net. That's it," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "This had nothing to do with Ben. This had everything to do with the quality of chances we gave up. It's too bad."
The Lightning (45-29-6) could have clinched a playoff spot with a point. And this loss likely cost Tampa Bay a shot at the Atlantic Division, with victorious Florida moving four points ahead with three games left. But if the Lightning plans on going anywhere upon reaching next week's playoffs, it has to protect its end better. Tampa Bay did in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Devils, with Cooper calling it the best structured game of the year.
"It seemed like the exact opposite (Monday)," wing Ryan Callahan said. "We were just worried about the other side of the net and not our own. We can't play that way. We're not successful when we play that way."
Bishop, with a league-best 2.00 goals-against average coming in, gave up five for just the second time this season. There were a couple he'd like to have back, notably Anders Lee's blast from the left circle that made it 4-1 in the second.
"It kind of snowballed in the wrong direction," Bishop said. "One of those nights bounces don't go your way."
He had little margin for error as the Lightning, with the league's worst road power play, went 0-for-4 and the Islanders scored on the next shift after two of them. The line of Callahan, Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette was a combined minus-6.
Without Stamkos and his team-high 36 goals, the team could use a boost offensively, whether that's shoot-first wing Jonathan Marchessault — a healthy scratch the past two games — or calling up Jonathan Drouin, who has nine goals in his past nine games for AHL Syracuse.
The Islanders outshot the Lightning 36-24.
"We just stopped shooting the puck," Cooper said. "We just wanted to tap it around until it was placed into the net."
With Bishop pulled early in the third, he could start tonight against the Rangers. "You're so used to seeing him be the rock back there every single night," Cooper said. "…Sometimes you've just got to give your guy a break."
A little help couldn't hurt, either.
First—1, NYI, Pulock 2 (Okposo, Tavares), 13:18. Penalties—Zidlicky, NYI (hooking), 1:38; Nesterov, TB (roughing), 6:21; Okposo, NYI, served by Prince (roughing), 6:21; Nelson, NYI (cross-checking), 10:53; Paquette, TB, major (fighting), 16:43; Pulock, NYI, major (fighting), 16:43; Johnson, TB (hooking), 19:50.
Second—2, TB, Killorn 14 (Kucherov, Carle), 2:08. 3, NYI, Martin 9 (Clutterbuck, Cizikas), 11:00. 4, NYI, Nelson 26 (Kulemin), 15:23. 5, NYI, Tavares 30 (Nielsen, Okposo), 16:15 (pp). 6, TB, Hedman 10 (Carle, Namestnikov), 19:53. Penalties—Brown, TB (high-sticking), 15:53.
Third—7, NYI, Boychuk 9 (Tavares), 4:28. Penalties—Lee, NYI (hooking), 2:10; Hickey, NYI (roughing), 10:17. Shots—TB 10-12-12—34. NYI 9-10-17—36. PPs—TB 0 of 4; NYI 1 of 2. Goalies—TB, Bishop 34-21-4 (23 shots-18 saves), Vasilevskiy (4:28 third, 13-13). NYI, Greiss 22-11-4 (34-32). A—13,106 (15,795).