TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it was a "no-brainer" giving goalie Ben Bishop the rare opportunity to start on back-to-back nights, wanting to ride the hot hand Saturday vs. the Blues.
Plus, this was no ordinary game for Bishop.
Bishop, 26, grew up in St. Louis and was drafted by the Blues in the third round in 2005. The touted prospect hoped to become the No. 1 goalie for his hometown team, but St. Louis was set at the position with Jaroslav Halak. It traded Bishop to Ottawa in 2012.
That made Saturday so satisfying for Bishop — acquired by Tampa Bay last season at the trade deadline and facing the Blues for the first time — who outdueled Halak to help lift the Lightning to a 4-2 win in front of 18,885 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Bishop, who had 31 saves in a 3-0 shutout at Carolina on Friday, made 28 for his ninth victory in 11 starts this season.
"It was definitely special," Bishop said. "I grew up rooting for them, going to games, drafted by them, played for them. I've got a lot of friends over there."
Bishop said he has "nothing but respect" for the Blues but still had extra motivation.
"He wanted this one pretty bad," center Steven Stamkos said. "He was pretty fired up before the game. We followed his lead. It was nice to get the win for him."
Brett Connolly got the winning goal for the Lightning (10-4-0), deflecting a Radko Gudas shot from the point midway through the third for his first of the season. And Tampa Bay improved to 5-0 against Western Conference teams, of which the Blues are one of the best. St. Louis had gone unbeaten in its previous five games and hadn't allowed an even-strength goal in 215 minutes. But the Lightning scored four such goals in what Cooper said "may have been our most complete game."
Alex Killorn had a career-high three points (one goal, two assists), continuing to impress on a line with Marty St. Louis and Stamkos, who got his 11th goal of the season. The special teams were solid, with the Lightning killing all three Blues power plays and generating several chances with the man advantage. And Connolly, robbed of a goal early in the third period, put Tampa Bay ahead for good.
"I think the hockey gods kind of gave me a break there for the first one," Connolly said.
Bishop made several big saves, including stopping Chris Stewart on a breakaway in the second.
"He's a good goalie, and he outworked us," said Blues center Jaden Schwartz, whose second-period goal tied the score at 2. "He made some big saves, some timely saves, so he was probably the difference-maker."
First—1, St.L, Pietrangelo 4 (Backes, Steen), 7:50. 2, TB, Killorn 4, 10:44. Penalties—Filppula, TB (holding), 1:53; Leopold, StL (holding stick), 8:28.
Second —3, TB, Stamkos 11 (Killorn, Barberio), 1:43. 4, St.L, Schwartz 3 (Shattenkirk, Berglund), 3:45. Penalties—Oshie, StL (slash), 15:18; Malone, TB (roughing), 17:22.
Third—5, TB, Connolly 1 (Gudas, Filppula), 8:37. 6, TB, Filppula 5 (Killorn, Brewer), 16:01. Penalties—Barberio, TB (trip), 1:40; Sobotka, StL (hook), 6:34; Stamkos, TB (cross-check), 20:00. Shots on Goal—St.L 9-7-14—30. TB 6-9-10—25. PP opps—St.L 0 of 3; TB 0 of 3. Goalies—St.L, Halak 7-2-1 (25 shots-21 saves). TB, Bishop 9-2-0 (30-28).