Ben Bishop and Valtteri battle against Pavel Datsyuk (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the first team to advance this post-season, downing the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in Game 5. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was outstanding in what was possibly the final game of Pavel Datsyuk’s career.
The Red Wings are going away — and so, too, could be Pavel Datsyuk — but don’t think they went away quietly. In what was possibly the most tightly played affair of the first-round series between playoff-made rivals Detroit and Tampa Bay, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop stole the show, ended the series and has his club moving on to the second round of the post-season as they attempt to fight their way back to the Stanley Cup final for a second consecutive season.
Bishop was nothing short of remarkable in Game 5 and his shutout, as much as Alex Killorn’s goal, is to thank for the Lightning becoming the first team to advance to Round Two. During no stretch of play was Bishop better than during a second period flurry that saw him stop Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Dylan Larkin on breakaways, as well as a left pad stop on a great chance by Larkin moments after he was stopped while in alone. The only threat the Red Wings made all night was a shot that clanked off the post in the first period. Outside of that, Detroit’s shooters were dominated by the 29-year-old netminder.
Bishop’s play is exactly what the Lightning needed in Game 5, too, because for the first time all series Tampa Bay looked outmatched by the Red Wings. Be it the desperation of the elimination game or that the Lightning were looking too far ahead, Tampa Bay appeared lackadaisical, more content to sit back in the early stages of the game than attack. That would have cost the Lightning were it not for the way Bishop played.
The way he and Red Wings netminder Petr Mrazek battled, it seemed an inevitability that the game would come down to whichever netminder made the first mistake. It was Mrazek who cracked first.
With less than two minutes remaining in Game 5, the Lightning chipped the puck deep into the Red Wings’ zone, and in an attempt to start a breakout Mrazek tried to wrap it around the left wing boards. The puck was intercepted by Lightning pivot Ryan Callahan, who had dumped the puck in, and spun in front of the net where Killorn directed it home with 1:43 remaining in the period.
Killorn’s goal marked the second time in the series he had scored the game-winning goal, but the night, at least for the Lightning, belonged to Bishop. Even with Tampa Bay moving on and Detroit eliminated again in the first round, the significance of Game 5’s loss for the Red Wings goes beyond the end of their post-season. The unfortunate error by Mrazek — the only one he made on a night where he was otherwise spectacular — was enough to end the series, the Red Wings’ season and, in all likelihood, the NHL career of Datsyuk.
Before the post-season began, Datsyuk, 37, told the Detroit Free Press that he intended to retire from the NHL following this season. Citing a wish to be near his family, his young daughter and return home, Datsyuk said it is the “proper time” for him to leave. The ‘Magic Man’ had been showing signs of slowing over the past few seasons and he has battled injuries over the past few seasons that have limited him to only 174 of a possible 246 games. That doesn’t make the potential NHL exit of one of the most creative and skillful players the league has seen any easier to stomach, though.
And while nothing is set in stone and he could realistically still decide to return for the final season of his deal, it seems as though this will be it for Datsyuk. He’s one of the most well-respected veterans in the league and a surefire Hall of Famer, and it’s a shame his career will end with the Red Wings exiting so soon. But in a rivalry that has grown exponentially with each passing game of this series, maybe this will give Red Wings fans one more reason to boo the Lightning and Bishop when they roll into Detroit next season.