SAN JOSE -- When San Jose Sharks forward Brent Burns was activated from injured reserve Thursday and rejoined linemates Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tommy Wingels had to find a new home.
Wingels scored a career-high two goals, Couture had a career-high three assists, and Marleau had a goal and an assist. They combined for eight points and led the Sharks to a 5-1 victory against the Lightning at SAP Center.
"Patty and Cooch are two all-world players, and it's easy to fit in with those two," Wingels said. "Game one [together] tonight, we found a bit of chemistry off the get-go. We'll look to build on that in practice tomorrow and in the games going forward."
Wingels now has a single-season career-high seven goals, two more than he scored in 42 games last season.
"He's a shooter; he's got a shot," Couture said. "He can score 20 in this League. It's nice to see him score."
After going 3-1-1 on a five-game road trip that ended with a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the Sharks opened a five-game homestand by snapping a rare three-game home losing streak.
"We always like playing in front of our home crowd, and we feel like we have a huge advantage playing here at home," Thornton said. "They're a very good team. They're one of the best teams in the East. To beat them like that is huge. We just have to get confidence off that and keep going."
The Lightning lost their third straight game and fell to 0-3-0 on their four-game West Coast road trip, which ends Friday night against the Anaheim Ducks. They started the season 7-0-0 against Western Conference teams, but they've lost to the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Sharks by an aggregate score of 16-6 on the trip. They also fell to 2-3-0 since Steven Stamkos, their leading goal scorer and top point producer, sustained a broken right tibia against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11.
"There have been six points on the table, and we have yet to find one," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "To me, this is a rough trip. Things had been going our way for a long time this year to start the season, and now, not so much. My biggest concern right now is that we have given up 16 goals -- one's an empty-netter -- on this trip. If you are going to give up five a game, the chances are that you won't be winning many games.
"Reality set in a little bit with Stamper's loss. He takes the other team's best line and brings them down a notch. Teams now can really attack our depth, and they can focus on other guys. He's good for almost a goal a game. But we have proved that we can win without him."
Burns scored his fifth goal in his return to the lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
"It felt good," Burns said. "It's going to be a little bit of time to get back into things, but I felt like I stayed in pretty good shape while I was out. Obviously, you can't get in game situations. It's going to take some time, but overall I felt pretty good."
Wingels gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 3:39 of the first period. Marleau won a battle along the left boards, knocking the puck to Couture for a short pass to Wingels in the low left circle, where he wristed a shot past Lindback.
"Tommy, you can just tell he’s playing with so much confidence right now," Thornton said. "That line looked dangerous all night long. Good for Tommy to keep it going. Patty looked great, Logan looked great. They did a good job for us."
Tampa Bay had a great chance to pull even on the power play after Wingels went to the penalty box at 14:13 for tripping Valtteri Filppula. The Lightning's top power-play unit controlled the puck the entire two minutes and put three shots on goal, but couldn't score against Niemi and an exhausted foursome of penalty-killers -- Scott Hannan, Marleau, Stuart and Joe Pavelski.
Stuart made it 2-0 at 18:03, blasting a long rebound from above the left circle that snuck inside the left post. The goal was Stuart's second of the season and second in five games. Tyler Kennedy and Couture earned assists.
After allowing six first-period goals in their first 19 games, the Lightning have allowed six in their past three.
"We came out hard in the first and we fall behind 2-0, which puts us behind throughout the game," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We worked hard, but lost. We played against a very good team tonight. For not scoring any goals tonight until the end, we played very well. They are one of the elites in the league. When you make a mistake, they are going to make you pay for it."
Wingels increased the lead to 3-0 at 11:47 of the second period. From behind the net, Marleau zipped a pass to Wingels, just to the right of the crease. Wingels fired the puck between former Sharks defenseman Matthew Carle and Teddy Purcell and past Lindback.
The Sharks scored two more goals in a 19-second span early in the third period to take a 5-0 lead. Hannan hammered a shot from above the left circle that bounced off Thornton before deflecting off Burns' skate and past Lindback at 4:23.
"I didn't do anything," Burns said, smiling. "But hey, I don't say no to them."
Marleau scored at 4:42 on a breakaway. He whiffed on his first attempt from close range, but beat Lindback with a backhand, slipping the puck inside the right post. Couture had the primary assist.
"They were great," Burns said of Couture's line. “[Wingels] has a great shot. Both were great releases. Obviously, Cooch is a great player and Patty is so fast he creates so much with his speed. I think that's what makes us feel great about our group. If one's going like that, we feel the other three lines can do damage too."
Burns was on the ice for just 14:20 in his return and said he'll need some time to get back in sync, but he makes the Sharks a bigger, stronger and deeper team.
"Brent is a very, very big piece of this lineup and our team," Wingels said. "You can see his presence out there helps us as a lineup, as a forward group. It's a bit of an intimidation against the other team. He's a big body going in on the forecheck."
Johnson ended Niemi's shutout bid at 7:39 when he took a pass from Ondrej Palat in the slot and blasted a shot past the goaltender's glove.
"This has been the best game we've played on the road trip so far," Johnson said. "That's the positive we take out of it. It's always harder to get on a roll than stay on a roll."
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