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Bishop ignores the negative noise and just keeps winning for Lightning

NEW YORK -- People didn't give the Tampa Bay Lightning or Ben Bishop a chance to beat the New York Rangers and fellow goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Not in a Game 7. Not in the Eastern Conference finals. Not on Madison Square Garden ice.

Well, he helped the Lightning to a 2-0 victory with 22 saves for his second Game 7 shutout of the postseason Friday night to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Tampa played a solid defensive game, and Bishop wasn't tested often, but he did make the timely saves.

As the final buzzer sounded, he was jumped by his teammates. As the celebratory scrum continued, Rangers fans began to chant, "Hen-rik. Hen-rik. Hen-rik."

"I was just hoping that horn was going to go [off] sooner than later," Bishop said. "It kind of seemed like they were in our zone the last three minutes, so I was just trying to catch my breath and they all came. It's just an exciting feeling. You want to get the chance at the beginning of the year to get to the playoffs, and then we got to the playoffs. Each round you want to give yourself a chance to play for the Stanley Cup and now we're right there."

At the start of the playoffs there was a lot made of the fact that Bishop did not have any previous postseason experience. He was injured last spring when the Montreal Canadiens swept the Lightning in the first round.

With each victory, and each series win, Bishop ignored the noise. He knew he was confident and he knew his teammates believed in him, too.

"Bish has stood in there and been phenomenal," said Lightning veteran forward Brian Boyle. "As a group we didn't give up much tonight. We trust the game plan the coaches put forth, saying if we don't give up much and it's a low-scoring game, a low-chance game, we'll take our chances in that. We executed it to a T.

"He's our backbone back there. He's won us games. He's gotten us to advance. We obviously got some significant contributions from a lot of guys, but he's probably our MVP."

In the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bishop has beaten the Canadiens' Carey Price and now Lundqvist. The King entered Game 7 with wins in his past six Game 7s, posting a 0.81 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage. His six consecutive Game 7 wins are an NHL record. He was also 10-0, including two shutouts, in the past 10 games when the Rangers faced elimination at Madison Square Garden.

That streak ended Friday night thanks to Bishop and the Lightning.

"Yeah, it's nice," Bishop said. "Obviously, we all knew his record. You saw it all over the TV, and there wasn't many people picking us, so it's nice. It kind of gives you a little bit more [motivation], but you don't need much in these games. To break that record at home, it's always nice to do that. If we play like we did tonight, we have a pretty good chance every night."

Let's not forget: Bishop wasn't perfect this series. There were times when he struggled. There were times when he seemed to fight the puck a bit. He always rebounded, however, and showed that resiliency.

"They got some bounces last game and some open looks," Bishop said of New York's 7-3 win in Game 6 at Tampa, a game he was pulled from after allowing five goals. "I feel pretty confident in this building and we've done well against them all year, so I wasn't worried about it. I was just looking forward to getting out there again."

Bishop is the first goalie in Stanley Cup playoffs history to post shutouts in each of his first two Game 7 appearances. He's also the first to post a road shutout in Game 7 in the round preceding the Stanley Cup finals. With Friday's win, Bishop is 5-1-0 in his career at MSG.

He's also the third goalie to post two Game 7 shutouts in a single postseason, joining the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas (2011) and the Colorado Avalanche's Patrick Roy (2002).

In Game 7, Tampa had to play the perfect game in order to beat the Rangers and Lundqvist. The Lightning accomplished that goal. Bishop did not allow the Rangers to score in the last 143 minutes and 43 seconds on home ice, dating back to Game 2.

Defensively, Tampa was sound, blocking 20 shots. The Lightning completely suffocated the Rangers. Sticks were in passing lanes all game and disrupted any chance of New York creating a sustained offensive pressure.

"I really thought that we pulled off the best game in the playoffs," said Tampa defenseman Anton Stralman. "We limited them to very few scoring chances, didn't give up much, and when we did, Bish steps up as always with a few big saves when we needed. I'm really proud right now of what we accomplished, but it's not over yet. We definitely want to take another step."

Unlike Lundqvist, who made many highlight-reel saves at the other end of the ice, Bishop wasn't really tested in the first two periods. With the Lightning holding a 1-0 lead, there was a bit of a push from New York midway through the final 20 minutes of regulation, and Bishop made a series of quick saves during one flurry that gave Tampa momentum.

Moments later, the Lightning's Ondrej Palat scored to give Tampa a 2-0 lead en route to victory.

"He's been huge for us ever since he got here. He's one of those guys that you just have confidence in," said Lightning forward Tyler Johnson of Bishop. "He's just back there and it really helps you out. There have been many times where we hung him out to dry and he always makes that save for us. It's nice to be able to have a goalie back there that you have the confidence that if you do mess up, someone's going to be back there for you."

Overall, Bishop has three shutouts this postseason. There have been games when he's been the difference, but other nights his inexperience showed. In Game 7, the defense in front of him made a bigger difference than his shutout performance, but Tampa's not going to the Stanley Cup finals without him between the pipes.

"I don't think there's ever been a game we walked into and not had confidence in Bish," Johnson said. "He's a big-time player. He's a guy that competes. He works hard. He wants to win. We have a lot of faith in him in a lot of situations and he's never let us down."

At this time of the season, especially in the Stanley Cup finals, the team with the better goaltender wins. Bishop understands the next four wins will be the toughest of his career, but he's ready for that challenge.

One of the Lightning's playoff slogans is "Bish, please," and so far he's answered the call.