(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
The San Jose Sharks dropped the third game of this road trip to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-2. Two Lightning goals were scored by Tyler Johnson, two more by Nikita Kucherov and another by Cory Conacher. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 stops in the game. Sharks’ goals were scored by Barclay Goodrow, who had just returned from injury, and Justin Braun. Martin Jones stopped 38 shots for the Sharks.
The loss was a modest improvement over their previous loss to Tampa Bay, a 5-1 loss in San Jose on November 8, but it ended a four-game winning streak for San Jose in Tampa Bay. The Lightning continue to dominate in the NHL standings, maintaining a slim lead over the Winnipeg Jets. Entering Saturday’s game, they had a record of 17-6-2. On the other hand, half of those losses came in their last four games.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer saw few bright spots in his team’s game. DeBoer said: “The good news was that our goalie was outstanding, he was by far our best player. He gave a us a chance going into the third to get some points tonight. But we didn’t have enough contributions. We would have needed 20 guys tonight plus Jonesy’s effort. They’re a desperate team and rested, and we didn’t help ourselves.”
Beyond that, DeBoer seemed willing to put the loss behind him and move on. DeBoer said: “We’re not going to be down here in a back-to-back with half our team out again so we don’t have to worry about that.”
Sharks forward Logan Couture expressed disappointment with the loss. Couture said: “They out played us again. You know, you can say we’re on a back-to-back and all, I know that but still got to show up and put forth a better effort than we did tonight.”
Later, Couture acknowledged that the team really is in a tough spot with injuries. Couture said: “You know, we’ve been playing good hockey. This is back-to-back, we got a bunch of guys go down within a few game period. It’s tough. You miss three forwards who usually play in your top nine, so other guys gotta step up and gotta find a way to be competitive.”
The Sharks’ injury list changed overnight between Florida games. Goodrow returned from injured reserve and Jones was ready to start. Joonas Donskoi and Tim Heed were placed on injured reserve, while Marcus Sorensen was called up from the AHL’s Barracuda. Sorensen did not play Saturday, but will be available Monday.
Both Heed and Donskoi’s IR status was retroactive to the last game they played. For Heed, that was November 25, and for Donskoi it was November 28.
Additionally, Melker Karlsson was not available after being injured Friday. Kevin Labanc was back in the lineup and got credit for four shots on goal, more than any other Shark Saturday.
San Jose did hang in there for the first two periods, but in the third, the Lightning took the Sharks apart. The Sharks scored first, the only goal of the first period. With just over three minutes left in the period, Ryan Carpenter made a cross-ice pass to Daniel O’Regan as he skated down the right side. O’Regan took the shot and the rebound went right to Goodrow on the left side. He had an open net from that angle and he put it away. Assists went to Carpenter and O’Regan.
The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but had been outshot 15-8 by Tampa Bay.
The Lightning’s first period effort paid off early in the second period, as Nikita Kucherov tied the game up just 27 seconds in. Ondrej Palat carried the puck in and the Sharks defense set up to prevent a cross-ice pass to Kucherov. In doing so, they left their goaltender to handle any shot from Palat. Instead of shooting, Palat took the pass and it made it through three defenders to Kucherov, who had Martin Jones moving across and not quite ready to stop his shot. Assists went to Palat and Brayden Point.
The Lightning again outshot the Sharks in the second period, this time 16-8.
Joe Thornton was called for high sticking Tyler Johnson at the end of the second period. The Lightning started the third period with 1:56 of power play time. At 1:39 of the third, Johnson scored a power play goal to give the Lightning the 2-1 lead. Palat shot the puck into the zone so that it came off the back boards while Johnson skated in and caught it right in front of Jones. Assists went to Palat and Mikhail Sergachev.
Johnson scored again after Victor Hedman got a breakaway and would have scored had Brenden Dillon not caught the puck on the goal line. As he cleared it from the crease, Johnson was coming in fast and the puck came right to him. He put it back in over Jones.
Cory Conacher scored at 11:01, after a shoot in from Dan Girardi caught Justin Braun inside the knee. Seeing the defenseman drop to the ice, Conacher skated by him and caught a cross-ice pass from Alex Killorn. His shot went over Jones’ left shoulder as the goaltender came across to follow the puck. Assists went to Killorn and Yanni Gourde.
Braun did not stay down for long, and returned to stop the bleeding at 13:37. Braun caught the puck after an offensive zone faceoff. His blue line shot went cleanly through five skaters to beat Vasilevski on the glove side. An assist went to O’Regan.
Nikita Kucherov came back with a fifth goal at 15:37 off a breakaway after Logan Couture tried to shoot the puck in from the blue line and it his Kucherov instead. The bounce gave Kucherov the head start he needed.
The Sharks next play on Monday in Washington DC against the Capitals at 4 pm PT.