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Lightning recover from loss of Bishop to knock off Penguins 3-1 in Game 1

Despite losing goaltender Ben Bishop in the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-1 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

The series got off to a rousing start when Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan drove the Penguins’ Kris Letang into the boards from behind, drawing a five-minute major just 2:50 into the game. Letang collapsed to the ice and appeared unresponsive for a couple of seconds before leaving the ice under his own power.

The Penguins controlled the five minutes with the man-advantage but were unable to draw first blood, as Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made four saves and his penalty killers shut off several other shot attempts as the visitors successfully killed the entirity of the five minutes.

Letang was back on the ice shortly after absorbing the hit.

The Penguins continued to control the play, however, firing off nine shots to Tampa Bay’s two over the first 12 minutes of action.

After another Penguins flurry, Bishop left the Lightning net to play the puck and got twisted up trying to get back into postion, catching his left skate in the ice behind him and dropping to the ice in a heap as he grasped at his lower leg. Bishop, one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, remained prone on the ice for more than five minutes before being carted off the ice on a stretcher.

Bishop was replaced by 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning responded to the loss of their netminder, however, and began to surge. With 1:14 remaining, Alex Kollorn took pass from Victor Hedman and beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray five-hole to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

With under a minute remaining, Tampa Bay’s leading playoff scorer, winger Tyler Johnson, took a hit from Chris Kunitz behind the net and left the ice. Johnson returned late in the second period.

The second periond opened with a Pittsburgh chance, but Bryan Rust’s prime scoring chance was denied by Vasilevskiy.

Just seconds later, Evgeni Malkin hooked Hedman and the Lightning were rewarded with their first power play of the series. It didn’t take them long to convert as Murray allowed an enormous rebound off a Valtteri Filppula shot that Ondrej Palat was able to gather in front of the Pittsburgh goaltender and easily wrist past him to double the Lightning lead.

The Penguins turned up the heat offensively after the tally and drew a power play of their own, but again the Lightning were up to the task and kept Pittsburgh off the board.

The Lightning offensive surge continued after a Brian Dumoulin turnover led to a three-on-one and an easy goal by Jonathan Drouin, who rifled a feed from Palat past a helpless Murray for a commanding 3-0 lead.

Patric Hornqvist answered just 80 seconds later on a power play. The Penguins won the faceoff — their 16th win on 18 draws in the period — and Phil Kessel directed the puck to the wall, where Sidney Crosby threaded a brilliant pass between his legs to Hornqvist, who lasered the puck past Vasilevskiy to get the home team on the board.

The Penguins were the more desperate team in the early portions of the third period and it showed, as the home team spent more time in the Lightning’s end of the rink. The long reach of the Tampa Bay defensemen, however, thwarted several promising Pittsburgh opportunities.

With just under five minutes to go, Palat drove Dumoulin head first into the boards behind Murray and the Penguins defenseman took several minutes to gather himself before leaving the ice. Palat drew a boarding call and the Penguins had one last chance on the man-advantage.

The puck didn’t leave the Tampa Bay end for the first 1:33 of the power play but the Penguins were unable to take advantage despite several high quality chances.

Pittsburgh’s Murray made just 17 saves on 20 Lightning shots, while Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of 26 shots in relief of Bishop. Tampa’s goaltenders combined to stop 34 of 35 Penguins’ shots.

Game 2 is Monday night at 8 PM, also in Pittsburgh.

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