TAMPA — Goalie Ben Bishop admitted it probably wasn't the best "save selection."
"Sometimes," he said with a smile, "You have to improvise."
Boy, did he, with Bishop making some desperate, yet difference-making, stops in the second period to help lift Tampa Bay to a 4-1 win Thursday over the Senators at Amalie Arena.
With the Lightning clinging to a one-goal lead late in the second, Bishop was scrambling on his side in the crease as a slap shot from the right circle was heading his way.
"I was hoping he wouldn't shoot high," said Bishop, who finished with 30 saves and had his goals-against averaged drop to 1.95, best in the league.
The shot came low, and Bishop made the original stop, then did a quick double-pad stack to stuff Alex Chiasson near the right post, preserving a one-goal lead heading into the third period.
Coach Jon Cooper said he found himself looking at the clock, then Bishop.
"That was slow motion," Cooper said. "A difference-maker."
If this wasn't a must-win for the Lightning (14-12-3), it was close to it, pulling Tampa Bay within four points of Ottawa for third place in the Atlantic Division (an automatic playoff berth).
Tampa Bay got a big boost from its woeful power play, with Nikita Kucherov scoring the first of his two goals on a 5-on-3 power play with 6.7 seconds left in the first. It woke up the Lightning, which had just one shot in the first 15 minutes.
"It energized the room," said wing Ryan Callahan. "And it showed in the second."
But had it not been for Bishop in the first, the game might have turned out differently. The Lightning made three brutal turnovers, including a Jonathan Drouin giveaway in front of Bishop, who bailed his team out with two saves.
"Bish stood tall for us," Callahan said. "Without his first period, I don't think the score would be the way it is."
The Triplets were reunited, with Ondrej Palat returning to the lineup for the first time since suffering a left ankle injury Nov. 7. "Looked like he didn't miss a beat," Callahan said.
The trio, with Kucherov and Tyler Johnson, combined on Kucherov's second goal, which came midway through the third. Kucherov had his second multigoal game in his past three, giving him 10 on the season, second to captain Steven Stamkos (11).
"If he can keep shooting like that," Bishop said, "he'll score a lot of goals."
The Lightning's best line might have been Callahan (four hits, four takeaways, two assists), Valtteri Filppula (goal) and J.T. Brown, who had an assist, seven shots, finishing the game off with an empty-netter.
"He deserved it," Cooper said. "He was outstanding."
So was Bishop, who might be playing some of the best hockey of his career, improving to 7-0-3 against his former team.
"Every time we had holes in our game," Cooper said, "Bish was there."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 9 (Stamkos, Hedman), 19:52 (pp). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (holding), 10:47; Chiasson, Ott (tripping), 14:12; Cowen, Ott (cross-checking), 16:07; Callahan, TB (cross-checking), 16:07; Borowiecki, Ott (hooking), 18:44; C.Wideman, Ott (interference), 18:44.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Marchessault, TB (hooking), 13:10; Filppula, TB (holding), 18:13.
Third Period—2, Tampa Bay, Filppula 3 (Brown, Callahan), :25. 3, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 10, 8:33. 4, Ottawa, Ceci 3 (Ryan, Stone), 12:06. 5, Tampa Bay, Brown 3 (Callahan), 19:46 (en). Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Ottawa 8-13-10—31. Tampa Bay 6-11-13—30. Power-play opportunities—Ottawa 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Ottawa, Anderson 13-8-3 (29 shots-26 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 12-8-2 (31-30). A—19,092 (19,204). T—2:32. Referees—Ghislain Hebert, Brad Meier. Linesmen—Scott Cherrey, Brian Murphy.