CHICAGO — Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper says he isn’t sure who will start in goal for the Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Ben Bishop left midway through the third period of Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory over Chicago on Saturday night. He returned for a brief stretch and then left for good. Andrei Vasilevskiy made five saves to help close out the win.

There was no word from the Lightning on Sunday on why Bishop departed. Cooper indicated he could be available for Monday night’s game, and he might know more at the morning skate.

“You’ll have a better indication, I guess, tomorrow at the skate,” Cooper said. “Although our morning skates are all optional anyway. Bish, notoriously he goes on sometimes during them and sometimes he doesn’t. I’m sure you’ll get a clue then tomorrow.”

Cooper says it would be a blow for Tampa Bay if Bishop is unable to play, but the team is confident it can win with Vasilevskiy in net.

“If Bish can’t go tomorrow, is that a blow to us? Sure it is,” Cooper said.


“But do we think the series is lost because Vasilevskiy is going in? Not a chance.”

If Bishop can’t go, the Lightning’s Stanley Cup hopes would rest on the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft and his 19 total games of NHL experience, including relief duty in three postseason contests.

Vasilevskiy was a solid 7-5-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage as a rookie this year, but he didn’t get much work.

Bishop set the franchise record for victories, and he has 52 combined wins this year.

Vasilevskiy hasn’t started a game since March 31, playing just twice in relief between then and Game 2.

“I’m sure it can’t be easy for him,” Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan said Saturday. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. He showed a lot of character and came up with some big saves there.”


Vasilevskiy is a newcomer to the NHL playoffs – but so is Bishop.

Bishop missed last year’s postseason with a wrist injury after finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and he had just one AHL game of professional postseason experience entering this spring.

The 6-foot-7 goalie has had a few ugly games mixed with a largely solid effort in the Eastern Conference bracket.

“The one thing about Vasilevskiy, I know we have two unbelievably capable goaltenders,” Cooper said Saturday night. “When Bish had to leave, there wasn’t an ounce of stress on anybody on our bench, including myself. I mean, the kid proved it when he went in. He was great.”

Vasilevskiy has played plenty of big games at lower levels of hockey, but a Chicago crowd lusting after the Cup would provide an entirely new level of pressure.

The Lightning claim they’re completely confident their young goalie could handle it – and he feels even more confident than he did one period ago.

“Nervous? Just maybe a little bit,” Vasilevskiy said after Saturday’s game. “But after the first couple shots, I feel myself better. Every game I’m ready, and I keep my head ready for the game, and that’s it. … First time, maybe more nervous. But second time, just play and that’s it.”

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