PITTSBURGH — There was a good debate last week between Lightning coaches before allowing G Ben Bishop to play back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday against the Maple Leafs and Senators.
But with no practice Friday or today, and with Anders Lindback in net Saturday against the Penguins, Bishop got three days of rest and recovery.
He could use it, too. Bishop's 55 games entered Saturday tied for third among league goalies. He has allowed at least three goals in eight of his past nine starts and still is dealing with a painful right wrist. Even Bishop said, "It's going to be nice to sit back and relax a little bit."
Coach Jon Cooper brushed off questions about fatigue in his No. 1 goalie, preferring to talk about Bishop's body of work, which he called "remarkable." Bishop entered Saturday tied for second in the league with 34 wins, sixth with a 2.17 goals-against average and fourth with a .927 save percentage.
There also were late saves in the 5-3 win over Toronto and the 5-4 win over Ottawa that overcame any prior bad goals, Cooper said: "You can look at it two ways. You can be mesmerized by the numbers and say they're inflated or you can say he made big saves with under five minutes left to save the game. That's the save I'm looking for."
"I want to do better," said Bishop, who has a 2.96 GAA and a .896 save percentage in his past nine games. "I want to do better for the guys, especially when they're scoring goals. I don't want to make them close games. But right now just coming up with timely saves in the third period is going to make the difference."
PROVING GROUND: Between his injured ankle and the Olympic break, Lindback played only his third game since Jan. 13, a tough spot for a player trying to prove he is a reliable backup while auditioning for next season. "The way we're playing and the way (Bishop) is playing, it's hard for me to get in there," Lindback said, "so every game is a huge opportunity for myself." Lindback (5-12-2 with a 3.26 GAA and a .878 save percentage) allowed four goals on 29 shots in the 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins, three on the power play, one off a bad turnover. And James Neal's winner was a bullet from in close. "I can't say any goaltender anywhere would have had those," Cooper said. "You want your goaltender to give you a chance to win, and he gave us a chance to win."
LIGHTNING KILLER: With two goals and two assists, C Evgeni Malkin — who was in on every goal Pittsburgh scored against Tampa Bay — has 16 goals, 31 points in 26 games against the Lightning. "He moves well and has a lot of skill," Tampa Bay C Valtteri Filppula said. "He makes plays and can shoot. He doesn't have a bad thing in his game."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Penguins swept the season series 3-0 while going 7-for-14 on the power play. … Newly signed C Cody Kunyk, out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, is expected to join the Lightning on Monday. … Forwards B.J. Crombeen and Nikita Kucherov and defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio were scratched.