PITTSBURGH — Ben Bishop — the Lightning's rock, its MVP — was getting wheeled off the ice on a stretcher Friday night, sparking some bad memories
"We've seen that before," defenseman Victor Hedman said.
Coach Jon Cooper recalled how captain Steven Stamkos broke his leg in a game three years ago. Wing Ondrej Palat thought back to Bishop tearing his groin in last year's Stanley Cup final.
"Terrible," Palat said. "It was like deja vu."
But it wasn't devastating.
Wing Alex Killorn approached a laid-out Bishop near mid ice after the goalie's first-period injury to his left leg, sensing how much pain he was in, and patted him on the blocker with his stick.
"I said, 'We got this,' " Killorn said. "It just lifts the team when we can come together."
The Lightning certainly did in a 3-1 victory over the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, one of the gutsiest playoff wins in franchise history.
The early word on Bishop, hurt on an awkward fall in his crease, was encouraging. Cooper said X-rays were negative and nothing was wrong structurally. His status was unknown for Monday's Game 2. "We're hoping for the best," Cooper said.
The Lightning, having been bailed out by Bishop so often in his Vezina Trophy-caliber season, wanted to pick him up after the injury.
"You feel for him, hope he's okay," center Brian Boyle said. "But it's a situation where you know 'Bish,' how competitive he is. You want to do well for him"
Backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21, in just his sixth playoff appearance, came through with a poised 25-save performance.
"He was tremendous," Hedman said. "You can't put into words how good he was coming in like that in a conference final. Pretty impressive for a 21-year-old."
Vasilevskiy, having played just 30 game minutes in the past five weeks, said he felt rough at first but it helped that the Lightning gave him a 3-0 lead. Killorn delivered with the game's first goal, a breakaway set up by a stellar stretch pass from Hedman with 1:14 left in the first. Palat and Jonathan Drouin added goals in the second.
The penalty kill shined, going 3-for-4, including killing off a five-minute boarding major early in the first by Ryan Callahan, who could draw league discipline for his hit on Kris Letang. Left left the game for a short time and returned in the first.
"You don't want to see anybody injured. That's not what you're trying to do," Callahan said. "That's not the way I play. I've never been fined or suspended. I take a lot of pride in that."
Callahan said the Lightning has had a "next man up" mentality, a sense of calmness gained in last year's run to the Stanley Cup final run. It has already won two playoff rounds without Anton Stralman (broken leg) and Stamkos (blood clot). So when Bishop went down awkwardly on his left leg, holding the knee in pain, the Lightning didn't flinch.
Also in this game, the Lightning handled the brief absence of Tyler Johnson, who missed part of the second period after a knee-to-knee hit from Penguins forward Chris Kunitz late in the first.
"There was concern for Ben's health," Cooper said. "But it wasn't concern about 'Oh my gosh, the game is over.' That was the farthest thing from the truth."
And it showed.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Killorn 4 (Hedman), 18:46. Penalty—Callahan, TB (boarding), 2:50.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Palat 3 (Flippula, Garrison), 2:33 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Drouin 2 (Palat, Flippula), 18:25. 4, Pittsburgh, Hornqvist 6 (Crosby, Kessel), 19:05 (pp). Penalties—Malkin, Pit (hooking), 1:46; Nesterov, TB (hooking), 7:50; Cullen, Pit (tripping), 10:50; Hedman, TB (tripping), 18:49.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Palat, TB (boarding), 15:14; Hornqvist, Pit (cross-checking), 20:00. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-9-5—20. Pittsburgh 10-9-16—35. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Pittsburgh 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop (9 shots-9 saves), Vasilevskiy 1-0 (7:35 first, 26-25). Pittsburgh, Murray 7-3 (20-17).