Ben Bishop battles to win Game 3, keeps injury a mystery

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Ben Bishop battles to win Game 3, keeps injury a mystery
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CHICAGO — Jon Cooper said he saw it in Ben Bishop’s eyes. “It” being the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender telling his head coach “give me the net.” Cooper did, and he was rewarded with a victory to take a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It's going to take a lot not to play in a Stanley Cup Final game, personally,” said Bishop afterward.

After 48 hours of speculation about what was bothering Bishop after he left Game 2 on two occasions — the second time for good — he played the entirety of Game 3 and made 36 saves, including 18 in the opening period, in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The 38 shots faced were the second-most for the Tampa netminder this postseason. 

Bishop looked like aggravated some sort of lower-body injury in the first period and numerous times during the game he was slow to get up. Clearly, he was laboring and fighting through some sort of physical issue. But Cooper said he had no thoughts about turning to Andrei Vasilevskiy again.

In an interview with NBCSN, Cooper blamed Bishop’s size (6-foot-7) for why he was getting up so slowly.

“If haven’t see too any morning skates he doesn’t move a lot in those usually,” joked Brian Boyle afterward.

But if the Lightning weren’t going to acknowledge anything was up with Bishop, the Blackhawks certainly noticed something.

“Of course we can see that, but he’s fighting just like anyone else in this series,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville rued the missed opportunities his team had, including a pair of wide-open nets in the first period.

“[Bishop] looks like he's got some issues,” he said. “But I think we still didn't put enough pucks at the net and traffic, obviously. But certainly later in the game there we made it easier on him.”

Bishop wasn’t giving anything away about his physical status in his postgame press conference, despite numerous attempts by reporters to pry information out of him. We won’t know anything until this series is over.

Cooper didn’t watch Bishop during Monday’s morning skate and he met with the media while the Lightning were still on the United Center ice. He met with his goaltender after that press conference and again when the team arrived to the rink for Game 3. That’s when he knew for sure.

“We're not going to put anybody in a game that is going to be in harm's way of hurting himself,” Cooper said. “We talked long and hard if he could play tonight. There wasn't a doubt in his eyes.” 

Tampa’s win improved their road record this postseason to 8-3 and put them half way to a second Cup in franchise history. Those celebrations are a long ways away at this point, but Bishop fighting through whatever he’s battling was an inspiring performance for a Lightning team that is seeing their confidence continue to grow.

“That’s what great goalies do,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. "That’s what great players do. They rise to the occasion. He did that. We didn’t have our best. We needed him. And obviously guys are very happy for him the way he performed tonight. 

“He gave us a chance to respond after the first. That’s all you can ask of a goaltender at this time of year.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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