The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrated a series-tying victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday but were tight-lipped about the fitness of Ben Bishop after the starting goaltender was replaced.
Bishop, who made 21 saves in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 Game Two win over the Blackhawks, left the game twice during the third period leaving questions about his health.
Bishop first departed with the score 3-3 with 12:43 to play to be replaced by 20-year-old rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He returned with 11:11 remaining after Tampa Bay took the lead but was again replaced with 7:41 left.
Vasilevskiy finished with five stops and was the winning goaltender.
The Lightning offered no explanation, instead focusing on Vasilevskiy’s relief performance.
“I can’t really tell you too much (about Bishop leaving). He had to get out, but (Vasilevskiy) came in and he did big things for us,” Lightning center Tyler Johnson told reporters.
“We have a lot of confidence in (Vasilevskiy). We’ve seen him all year.”
The mystery may be explained by a third-period collision with Chicago’s Antoine Vermette. The Blackhawks center was skating by the net in the first few minutes of the third when he made contact with Bishop’s upper body that seemed to inflict discomfort.
Bishop did play on, however.
The Lightning netminder was been pivotal in Tampa Bay’s playoff run, recording a pair of Game Seven shutouts.
Bishop had held opponents scoreless for a total of 113:28 before Chicago broke loose during the third period of the Lightning’s Game One loss.
With Game Three on Monday in Chicago, Tampa Bay has a quick turnaround.
“I know we have two unbelievably capable goaltenders,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
“When (Bishop) had to leave, there wasn’t an ounce of stress on anybody on our bench, including myself. “The kid proved it when he went in. He was great.”