Hedman, Bishop lead Lightning back to East Final

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning into the Eastern Conference final for the second straight year.

Hedman scored twice and Bishop stopped 28 shots Sunday, helping the defending conference champions beat the New York Islanders 4-0 and end their second-round playoff series in five games.

The Lightning advanced by winning four straight after dropping the series opener at home. They also eliminated Detroit in five games in the opening round, making them 2-0 in close-out situations this postseason.

“I think we learned last year we had a couple of series where we had chances to close (opponents) out at home and we kind of let them slip,” Bishop said. “We really wanted to take pride in closing teams out this year.”

Hedman scored an unassisted goal from the slot at 13:49 of the first period, then beat Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss again on a second-period power play that gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead.

“Brutal. It’s hard to believe it’s over,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “You put a lot into this and we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do.”

Nikita Kucherov and Brian Boyle also scored for the Lightning, who will face either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals in the East final. The Penguins lead that series 3-2, with Game 6 Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

“Back to back, it’s pretty impressive what our guys have done,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Once you get there, you want to get back. I’m really impressed with our drive. We didn’t play perfect playoff games every time, but we’re getting contributions from everybody in the lineup. If you want to win, you need that.”

The 6-foot-7 Bishop earned his fifth career playoff shutout, fourth in the deciding game of a series. He blanked Detroit 1-0 in Game 5 to end that first-round matchup and won two Game 7s without allowing a goal to help Tampa Bay reach the Stanley Cup final last year.

The loss ended New York’s deepest playoff run since 1993.

Tavares led the Islanders to a thrilling six-game victory over the Florida Panthers in the opening round. He had a goal and assist in New York’s only victory over Tampa Bay, but didn’t have a point in the last four games.

“It will sting for a long time, but you have to get over it,” said Greiss, who stopped 21 of 25 shots.

The series was much more competitive than the final result would suggest.

The Islanders let third-period leads slip away in Game 3 and 4 in Brooklyn. Kucherov had tying goals in both games before Boyle and Jason Garrison provided winning goals in overtime to thrust the Lightning into a 3-1 series lead.

“We obviously played some good hockey at times, but we just let those two games at home slip away. That put us behind the 8-ball for (Sunday),” Tavares said.

There was little drama in the clincher, with Hedman and Boyle scoring within a five-minute span of the opening period before Hedman’s second goal – fourth this postseason – made it 3-0.

Tampa Bay defeated the New York Rangers in last year’s conference final, earning its second trip to the Stanley Cup final.

Experience gained during that run has been invaluable this year, with the team advancing through the first two rounds without injured star Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman.

They’ve done it with Bishop playing like a Vezina Trophy finalist and Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and young Jonathan Drouin, who had an assist on Hedman’s second goal, making timely contributions.

Kucherov’s breakaway early in the third period was his NHL-leading ninth goal of the playoffs.

“Last year was a good experience for me and the team. You know what to expect,” Hedman said. “You want to be at your best when you come to the playoffs. We battle for each other, and that’s paying off right now. We’ve got to keep that going.”

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – LIVE UPDATES:

5:48 p.m. Bolts beat the Islanders 4-0, reaching the Eastern Conference finals. Ben Bishop with his 4th career playoff shut out in a potential elimination game. Incredible.

5:37 p.m. Kucherov hacked on a breakaway. Should be a penalty shot, but it’s not. Lightning can salt away another 2 minutes here.

5:25 p.m. Boychuk heading off for cross-checking. Officials making a consternated effort to prevent this from coming off the rails.

5:21 p.m. Kucherov breakaway, PAYDIRT. His league-leading 9th postseason tally is well-received by a chorus of “KUUUCHH!” 4-0

5:19 p.m. Chaos in front of the Lightning net… Boychuk gets a golden chance but Bishop falls on the loose puck. 18 saves for Ben

5:15 p.m. Johnny Boychuk just got run… Slow to get up. Paquette gets two for boarding, and the Islanders go to the power play.

4:54 p.m. Through two, the Lightning lead 3-0. Shots are 18-16 TB, but it hasn’t been close.

4:44 p.m. Nick Leddy limps to the bench after getting run by Callahan. Could’ve been a charge… No call. Now the shenanigans begin. Tavares with a slash. He’s pissed… Whacks a loose stick on the way to the penalty box post-scrum.

4:42 p.m. This is how lopsided the game has gotten: Lightning 4th line toying with the Isles defense… Like a kid playing with food.

4:37 p.m. Islanders switching to a 3-2 forecheck. Putting a lot of pressure on the Lightning deep. NY willing to risk an odd-man rush.

4:32 p.m. Cizikas just got away with two dirty slashes away from the play. Second one worse than the first.

4:23 p.m. You got a sense the Islanders may have quit early in the 2nd… Now that’s almost certainly the case.

4:22 p.m. Hedman fires a blast from the left dot, may have hit something in front. Either way, it’s 3-0 Lightning.

4:20 p.m. Filppula, Koekkoek, Palat all get chances. Lightning going for the kill early in the second.

4:19 p.m. Killorn makes like a caddie and draws iron

4:18 p.m. Oustanding backcheck by Coburn, denying a chance for the Isles top line.

3:58 p.m. The Lightning lead the Islanders 2-0 after one. Bolts in complete control, outshooting NY 10-6. Goals by Hedman & Boyle.

3:55 p.m. What an OUTSTANDING hockey play by Boyle. Started the rush to Paquette. Paquette got it deep, Boyle retrieved, came around the net, kicked it skate to stick, and fired far side from a bad angle, over Greiss’ blocker.

3:50 p.m. The pace has slowed a bit after that Hedman goal; as if both teams needed an icebreaker to settle in.

3:44 p.m. Loose puck bounces to Hedman, who turns on a dime and fires high glove side, through Johnson screen, past Greiss. 1-0 Lightning

3:41 p.m. Sloppy neutral zone play by NY sparks a brief 2-on-1 for the Lightning. Kucherov fires a slapper but it gets stuck in Greiss’ belly.

3:39 p.m. Subtle interference by Kucherov prevents the Isles from getting an out, and leads to a full minute of PP attack time. But no dice.

3:36 p.m. Alan Quine, who missed game 4, makes an impact early in game 5. By taking a high-sticking penalty. Lightning PP ahead.

3:34 p.m. Good pace to the opening 10 minutes. Shots even at 5-apiece

3:33 p.m. Superb play by Hedman behind his own net. Chops puck out of 1-on-2, goes and gets it, uses his body to shield and makes a pass up the boards.

3:31 p.m. Okposo muscles his way into a 3-on-2, sets up Prince but Bishop stops him low blocker side. Two huge saves for Bish in the first.

3:29 p.m. The Lightning forecheck is running hot early on. Just generated 30+ seconds of zone time out of what looked like an easy out for the Isles.

3:24 p.m. Bishop robs Josh Bailey point-blank, and the Lightning survive their early foray in undisciplined hockey.

3:22 p.m. Early penalty for the Bolts – high stick.

3:21 p.m. – The puck drops at the Amalie Arena at Game 5 between the Lightning and the Islanders in the second round of Stanley Cup playoffs.

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