MONTREAL — Lightning goalie Ben Bishop may have lost a couple of teeth, but not his sense of humor.
Bishop, 29, flashed his gap-toothed grin often during and after Wednesday's practice at the Bell Centre. Sure it was a little painful to get his front two permanently fake crowns knocked out from a shot in Tuesday's 7-3 win over the Maple Leafs. His immediate reaction was natural shock: "Are you kidding me?"
But Bishop didn't mind taking playful jabs from friends through text messages about his new look, or from teammates on his lisp. Heck, Bishop thought a Twitter meme revising his T-shirt catch phrase "Bish Please" to "Bith Pleathe" was hilarious.
"You kind of enjoy it, embrace it," Bishop said.
Bishop has no choice, as he's not planning on visiting the dentist until next week when the Lightning returns to Tampa from its six-game, 11-day road trip. At least Bishop got a head start for Halloween on Monday.
"I'll walk around like a goof for a couple of days," he quipped.
Bishop said the closest he has come to this before was chipping a bottom tooth as a kid while also playing goal. He saw this one coming, a partially screened slap shot from Toronto's Peter Holland caroming off his mask. "Normally when you see it like that, you kind of duck and cover and try to brace yourself," Bishop said. "It's never fun getting hit like that in the face."
After a whistle stopped play, Bishop took off his bent mask, shaking out his two teeth. One fell into his hands, the other was picked up by veteran Brian Boyle. Boyle said he has collected teeth from the ice before, only they were his own. "It was weird," he said.
Bishop never thought about leaving the game and continued a 40-save performance that was his best of the young season. Associate coach Rick Bowness, who has coached more than 1,000 NHL games, said it was rare to see a goalie lose teeth. But he was impressed with how Bishop bounced back.
"It shows what a competitor he is," Bowness said. "Sometimes you get knocked like that, the easy way out is to take a break. He wasn't leaving the net. Get the teeth out of the mask, get it back together and let's go. That speaks a lot about his character."
Said captain Steven Stamkos: "He showed why he's one of the best."
Physical appearance aside, this was the best Bishop has looked in net this season, an encouraging sign as the Lightning sets to face the first-place Canadiens tonight. While Bishop (3-1) gave up at least three goals for his fourth straight start, it could have been eight or nine had it not been for some spectacular saves. Bowness said Bishop looked more comfortable, and he could tell he was locked in by the zip on his trademark stretch passes.
"It was the best I've felt for sure," Bishop said. "It's been kind of a work in progress. The previous games we watched, I was doing everything right, staying with the process. And I kind of got some unfortunate bounces. The stats aren't where you'd like them. But the wins are there, and that's the important thing."
Bishop admits it has been an adjustment sharing more starts with backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, which resulted in a four-day gap between his past two games.
"You want, especially in the beginning of the season, to get on a roll and feel well," Bishop said. "So it's a little bit different. At the same time, I've played enough games to where you can find a groove."
Bishop is likely to start again against the Canadiens, boasting significant career success against them (10-3-3, 1.80 goals against average in 17 games). The likely several-hour dentist appointment can wait. But not for too long, especially with Bishop and his fiance, Andrea, scheduled to get married next summer. Bishop's new look hasn't scared her off.
Bishop smiled, "The wedding is still on."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.