Heading into the playoffs, the one area of concern about the Tampa Bay Lightning was that starting goalie Ben Bishop may not be experienced enough in the post-season to thrive, and the rest of the team would pay the price if he struggled. And it wasn’t an ill-founded concern: although he deserves all kinds of credit for posting a 40-13-5 regular-season mark this year, the reality is the 28-year-old Bishop had just a single game’s worth of experience at the professional hockey level – and it came in the American League in 2011. So when Bishop batted a puck into his own net late in the second period of Game 4 of the Bolts’ first-round series against Detroit (a series the Lightning trailed the Red Wings in two games to one) a massive upset not only was continuing to materialize, but enter its late stages.
However, in a span of one minute and 17 seconds in the third period, Tampa Bay – specifically, blossoming star center Tyler Johnson, who scored his third goal of the playoffs at 14:34, then assisted on Ondrej Palat’s game-tying goal at 15:51 – erased all the trouble signs with a pair of goals to send a shocked Wings squad into overtime. And only 2:25 into the extra frame, Johnson scored his second of the night to win it and even up the series at two games apiece.
Don’t count out the Lightning just yet. In fact, with the series shifting back to Tampa Bay for Game 5 Saturday and again for a potential Game 7 Wednesday, it’s probably safer if you count them in. The rapid emergence of the 24-year-old Johnson as a game-changer nearing the level of teammate Steven Stamkos (who, incredibly, is still looking for his first goal of the series) is an incredibly positive harbinger of what could be to come for the Bolts the rest of this post-season and the playoffs to come. Read more