SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks were looking for a fast start Wednesday night against Tampa Bay, and they got one for the record books.
The Sharks built a 5-0 lead in the first 14:47 and cruised to a 7-2 victory against the Lightning at HP Pavilion. It was San Jose's third straight win and the fastest five goals from the start of a regular-season game in team history. The Sharks were one shy of the franchise record for most goals in any period.
The Sharks broke the old speed scoring mark of 18:50, set on Oct. 27, 1996, against Chicago. They also set a new season high for goals, surpassing the six they scored in a season-opening win against Phoenix. Tampa Bay allowed seven goals for the third time this season, tying its season high.
"They're a very good team with the lead," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the Lightning. "They get up a couple and then that trap and that style they play can really squash you. You get a little desperate and create turnovers, so to play with the lead was real important."
"We jumped on them," Couture said. "They didn't have much energy there in the first. We took advantage of that. That's something we hadn't done yet this year. It was nice to get up to that five-goal lead and play the way we wanted to for the next two periods."
Goaltender Mathieu Garon had won back-to-back games for Tampa Bay, but he was pulled at 6:21 of the first after giving up three goals on just eight shots. Dwayne Roloson gave up the final two goals in the first on just five shots. Until facing the Sharks, Tampa Bay hadn't allowed more than four goals in any period this season.
"It's an awful way to start a game," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said. "Clearly we were not prepared to play that type of game that they were, and it was just evident that they had a really good first period and clearly we did not."
Lightning coach Guy Boucher said his team played "soft" against the Sharks.
"You don't come out (that way) against a Stanley Cup contender that's a big team, a physical team that's first on the puck, a team that's got all the tools with no flaws," Boucher said. "You can't come out and be soft like we were and expect to be positive coming out of it."
It wasn't all bad news for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 6 against the Rangers and scored a third-period goal. The winger missed five games after being hit by a puck near his left eye during a morning skate on Dec. 8, suffering a scary injury that ended his streak of 499 consecutive games. Against San Jose, he wore a protective cage on his helmet.
"I felt like I got better as the game went on," St. Louis said. "Obviously coming from that kind of injury and putting a care on, it's a lot of things that come into play."
Dominic Moore scored in the first period for Tampa Bay, which saw its two-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 22 of 24 shots and improved to 14-6-3 as the Sharks won for the third straight at the Shark Tank with three more to go on their homestand.
The Sharks came into the game with the 29th-ranked penalty kill, but killed all five penalties. They were also 2-for-4 on the power play, another area that's been lacking.
"It was good," Couture said of the P.K. "They've got some firepower on that power play, so to make them have and oh-for tonight, that's big for us. Build on this and move on."
One day after being called up from Worcester of the AHL, Ferriero was in the lineup in place of Martin Havlat, who underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a partially-torn tendon in his left hamstring and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
Skating on the top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski, Ferriero wasted little time before scoring his second goal of the season at 3:26 of the first. Ferriero won a battle for the puck with two Lightning along the boards and passed it behind the net to Thornton. Thornton gave it back to Ferriero in front, and he knocked his own rebound past Garon.
"We put him in that situation so he could succeed, and he did," McLellan said. "I thought he did a very good job. Sometimes when those players come up they create a spark."
"It was my first game up in a while here," Ferriero said, "so I wanted to have a good one. It definitely helped me to score that goal and get the momentum going a little bit."
Pavelvski made it 2-0 at 4:51, scoring a power play goal with Marc-Andre Bergeron in the box for tripping. Burns ripped a shot from the left faceoff circle, and Pavelski scored on the rebound from close range.
Desjardins, the Sharks' fourth-line center, put San Jose ahead 3-0 at 6:21 with his third goal of the season, taking a pass from Andrew Murray and scoring on a wraparound.
At that point Garon skated off and Roloson took over. But at 8:47 of the first, Couture took a cross-ice pass from Marleau just left of the crease and beat Roloson, making it 4-0. Couture gave the Sharks a 5-0 lead at 14:47 with a power play goal with Moore in the penalty box for boarding.
Clowe sent a shot toward the net that bounced off Murray's skate then off Roloson's pad and wound up directly in front of the crease, where Couture deposited the gift into the net.
"You want to jump on teams early, and tonight we were fortunate enough to chase the goalie early on," Thornton said. "When it’s 5-0 the game's pretty much over, so it was a good start."
Moore cut the Sharks lead to 5-1, redirecting a shot from Brewer past Niemi at 15:38 of the first.
After a scoreless second period, Burns blasted a slap shot from near the blue line past Roloson following Michal Handzus' faceoff win, making it 6-1 at 1:50 of the third. That was Burns' sixth goal of the season, but his first since cutting his long hair earlier Wednesday.
"Papa Burns came in and said I've got to change it up for the hockey gods," Burns said. "Still got to listen to him, I guess."
St. Louis scored his 10th goal of the season at 7:45, firing a shot from the low slot that beat Niemi high to the glove side.
"We're ecstatic to have him back," Brewer said. "He's a fantastic person, and obviously his hockey speaks for itself."
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