TAMPA — It wasn't the prettiest of games for the Lightning in its matchup Monday against the Maple Leafs but in the end it didn't matter.
All that matters is the team got two critical points. Goaltender Ben Bishop made sure of that.
Bishop had 34 saves for his sixth shutout this season to lift the Lightning to a 3-0 victory at Amalie Arena. The Lightning pulled into a first-place tie with the idle Panthers in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have 93 points, though Florida has played one less game (the Lightning has six games remaining, the Panthers seven).
Mike Blunden, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman scored for Tampa Bay, which was dominated for most of the game, tying a season low with 18 shots on goal while turning the puck over and having bad defensive rush coverage.
But Bishop was by far the best player on the ice.
Bishop was helped by a penalty kill that killed off all seven of Toronto's extra-man advantages.
"He had extremely high quality saves which in turn is lack of defensive coverage for us," said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who had two assists to extend his points streak to six games. "We'll take the win at this time of the year. The points are critical. We can't sit here and say that was a great effort by us tonight. We've got to thank Bish for sure for giving us a chance to win this game tonight."
Early in the first period it was evident Bishop was on his game. Toronto's Connor Brown found himself in front of the net alone in front of Bishop but the goalie stoned him.
Quality chance after quality chance came at Bishop, but he was up to the task. He made a glove save on Frank Corrado and later made a save on Brad Boyes. Tyler Bozak walked in from the right circle on Bishop, who made a glove save.
His best save came in the second period when Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri had an open net but Bishop somehow enough of a glove on the shot to deflect it off the post.
"Every now and then you get a little lucky," Bishop said. "I think tonight I got a couple of good bounces and we didn't really give up too many second opportunities."
Offensively, the Lightning took advantage of its few opportunities.
Erik Condra beat an icing call and fed Blunden, who netted his third of the season. Later, Palat batted a rebound through the legs of goalie Garret Sparks for a 2-0 Tampa Bay lead after one. Hedman's goal in the second period made it 3-0.
"He's been our best player the whole season and he showed up again tonight," Hedman said of Bishop. "We'll take these two points but we'll get to practice and watch the tape (today) to see some things we need to clean up."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Blunden 3 (Condra, Hedman), 7:34. 2, Tampa Bay, Palat 15 (Stamkos, Garrison), 14:29. Penalties—Condra, TB (slashing), 2:29; Palat, TB (tripping), 12:19; C.Carrick, Tor (interference), 19:25.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Hedman 8 (Stamkos, Condra), 6:38. Penalties—Michalek, Tor (hooking), 3:34; Nesterov, TB (cross-checking), 8:14; Hedman, TB (delay of game), 11:34.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Filppula, TB (tripping), 1:53; Coburn, TB (elbowing), 4:13; Boyle, TB (delay of game), 6:08; Rielly, Tor (tripping), 7:10; Kadri, Tor (roughing), 19:55; Corrado, Tor (roughing), 19:55; Boyle, TB, minor-misconduct (roughing), 19:55; Blunden, TB (roughing), 19:55; Paquette, TB (cross-checking), 20:00. Shots on Goal—Toronto 13-14-7—34. Tampa Bay 10-4-4—18. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 0 of 7; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Toronto, Sparks 6-5-1 (18 shots-15 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 33-19-4 (34-34). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:31. Referees—Dave Jackson, Jon McIsaac. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Matt MacPherson.