TAMPA — Ben Bishop finally cracked.
For two days he talked about how facing his former team was no big deal. But Tuesday night, after a 3-2 victory over the Senators in front of an announced crowd of 17,323 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the goaltender admitted, "I'm a little excited."
It Bishop's first game against the organization that dealt him at the trade deadline for Cory Conacher, and his first in his new home arena.
So, to make 31 saves to help Tampa Bay (17-20-2) break a two-game losing streak and push it into third place in the Southeast Division was a notable step as Bishop continues to establish credibility with teammates and fans.
"He played unbelievable," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "He makes everything look easy."
"You can't say enough about his confidence and composure," coach Jon Cooper said. "You have to embrace that and really like that in a goaltender. He's the last line of defense and he stood tall."
He got some much-welcomed help as Steven Stamkos scored his first goal in five games with 5:04 left in the third period to break a 2-2 tie. His 26th tally kept him tied with Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the league lead and was the Lightning's second power-play goal of the game.
Lecavalier, whose pinpoint pass across the slot set up Stamkos, scored for the second straight game. Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored his first NHL goal, and Marty St. Louis had two assists for 901 career points.
But it was the 6-foot-7 Bishop, 2-2-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .944 save percentage with Tampa Bay, who — no pun intended — was the big story.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "First game in this building, we wanted to get a big win for the fans. It was nice to get it against my old team."
A messy goal occurred 21 seconds into the third period when Ottawa's Guillaume Latendresse scored for a 2-2 tie as Lightning defenseman Matt Carle jumped up to swat a floating puck Bishop was trying to catch.
The puck landed on the ice and Latendresse pounced.
"It's one of those things, you can't let it bother you," Bishop said. "You're going to get goals scored on you you think should not go in. You have to battle through it."
He did with 10 saves in a third period in which Tampa Bay was outshot 11-4.
"He was definitely jacked up and played a great game," Stamkos said. "That's what we're going to expect from him."
"I just wanted to get the two points for the team," Bishop said. "It's not about me versus them at all."
Well, maybe it was a little.
First Period—1, Ottawa, Alfredsson 9 (Turris, Phillips), 14:29. Penalties—Smith, Ott (hooking), 1:07; Labrie, TB (high-sticking), 4:29.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Labrie 1 (Thompson, Crombeen), 2:35. 3, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 9 (Purcell, St. Louis), 4:28 (pp). Penalties—Turris, Ott (hooking), 3:50; Regin, Ott (face-off violation), 3:50; Benoit, Ott (holding stick), 7:42; Gonchar, Ott (slashing), 9:56; St. Louis, TB (hooking), 9:59; Bishop, TB, served by Purcell (delay of game), 10:54; Phillips, Ott (high-sticking), 12:55; Crombeen, TB (holding stick), 19:21.
Third Period—4, Ottawa, Latendresse 6 (Turris, Wiercioch), :21 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 26 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 14:56 (pp). Penalties—Gonchar, Ott (hooking), 14:40; Neil, Ott (roughing), 16:32; Malone, TB (roughing), 16:32; Neil, Ott (roughing), 20:00; Brewer, TB (roughing), 20:00. Shots on Goal—Ottawa 13-9-11—33. Tampa Bay 8-12-4—24. Power-play opportunities—Ottawa 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 2 of 7. Goalies—Ottawa, Anderson 8-6-2 (24 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 10-7-0 (33-31). A—17,323 (19,204). T—2:36. Referees—Mike Hasenfratz, Dan O'Rourke. Linesmen—Matt MacPherson, Jonny Murray.