NHL

Maple Leafs-Lightning Preview

Despite their reliance on offense, the Tampa Bay Lightning know they're at their best with Ben Bishop in net.

Playing with a familiar swagger since Bishop's return from injury, the Lightning look to stay atop the Atlantic Division Monday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a battle of the NHL's top two scoring teams.

Bishop waded through a rough patch in early December before suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 15. Prior to that poor stretch, however, he ranked as one of the top goalies in the league, going 16-3-2 and leading Tampa Bay (22-11-4) to the top of the NHL standings.

He started his first game since the injury Saturday and immediately returned the Lightning to their early season success with a 2-1 win over Carolina.

"He's a presence in the net," coach Jon Cooper told Tampa Bay's official site. "I'm sure teams that come in here are probably thinking they've got to pick a corner a little bit better than normal just because of his size in the net.

"He's in control back there. He gives us a lot of confidence when he's on the ice, and so it's really good to have him back."

The 2014 Vezina Trophy finalist made 25 saves in the win to improve to 12-3-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average at home.

"If you can hold a team to one or two goals, you're giving yourself a really good chance at winning the game," Cooper said. "Bish was there when we needed him."

Steven Stamkos has been curiously quiet for the Lightning, who rank second in the league with 3.19 goals per game. He has failed to record a point in three straight games and would match his longest drought - not interrupted by injury - since March 15-22, 2012, with another pointless performance Monday.

Stamkos, though, is usually very productive when facing the Maple Leafs, tallying 14 goals and 27 points in 22 career meetings. He has five goals and two assists in the past four matchups.

Toronto (20-13-3) owns the league's top offense with 3.33 goals per game, but that output has failed to yield much success lately. The Maple Leafs have dropped four of five, most recently to Florida 6-4 on Sunday after allowing four third-period goals.

"I didn't think we were very good and we had a 4-2 lead going into the third,'' coach Randy Carlyle said. "You should be able to take that home and play a solid enough 20 minutes to get yourself two points. That's the disappointing part.''

Toronto has been extremely poor defensively of late, yielding 21 goals in that five-game span even with a 4-0 victory at Dallas on Tuesday.

Still, they've found success against the Lightning. Toronto has won eight of the last 12 meetings, including a 5-2 home victory on Nov. 20 behind two goals from James van Riemsdyk.

"Toronto, every time we've played them, they've been good games," Cooper said. "They have a lot of skill on that team. Similar to us, most of the lines can put the puck in the net ... This will be a tough one for us."

Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves in last month's win over the Lightning and is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA in three career meetings.

He stopped 43 shots in the win at Dallas after giving up a career worst-tying seven goals in a 7-4 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 20.

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