On the one hand, the Lightning probably should have won this game by more than one goal. They built a 2-0 first period lead and then, after the Sharks made a push in the second and cut the lead in half, regained a two-goal advantage before the period ended. And the lead became three early in the third.
But on the other hand, a team that takes eight penalties is playing with fire. And the Lightning almost got burned – they allowed three power play goals, including two in the third after they had grabbed the 4-1 lead. As a result, the Lightning had to battle through the last five and a half minutes of the game in order to get to the finish line with their lead intact. But they did – and now have wins in each of the first two games of this three-game swing through California.
As was the case Wednesday in Anaheim, the Lightning had a very good first period. Unlike the first period in Anaheim, which ended in a scoreless tie, the Lightning were rewarded with two goals. Two minutes into the game, Victor Hedman blocked a San Jose clearing attempt and the puck bounced to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov stickhandled around Brent Burns and wristed a shot through the pads of Alex Stalock. Later in the frame, Andrej Sustr joined the rush and centered a pass from the right circle. The puck ricocheted off the skate of Erik Condra into the San Jose net.
The Sharks only had four first period shots and didn’t generate much momentum throughout the frame. That changed early in the second. The Lightning began struggling with puck management and the Sharks spent considerable time in the Lightning end. The Bolts defended well without the puck, limiting San Jose’s scoring chances, but the constant pressure led to three separate second period penalties. The last of those resulted in Matt Tennyson’s power play goal, a blast from the left circle.
The Lightning responded well on the ensuring shift, however. They buzzed in the San Jose end and then, after the puck left the Sharks zone, Alex Killorn drew a tripping minor on a rush back into the offensive zone. While on that power play, Killorn drew another tripping minor, leading to a five-on-three for just under a minute. Kucherov and Steven Stamkos teamed up for a goal off the rush. They played catch as they moved the puck up ice. When Stamkos took the puck towards the slot, San Jose defenseman Justin Braun angled towards Stamkos, who then slipped the puck back to Kucherov. Braun was out of position to defend Kucherov, who ripped a shot over Stalock’s glove. The goal made it 3-1 after two periods.
The Lightning had to kill two early third period penalties, which they did successfully. In between those kills, Brian Boyle finished a rebound chance after J.T. Brown was denied on a partial breakaway. Up 4-1, the Lightning seemed in control. The Sharks didn’t have much going in the way of scoring chances and the Lightning were doing a nice job getting pucks out of their own end and deep into the San Jose zone. But they couldn’t stay out of the box. Another Lightning penalty just shy of the halfway point led to Joel Ward’s PPG, a tip on a Burns point shot.
On the next shift, Tomas Hertl high-sticked Ben Bishop and Hertl’s stick cut Bishop through the mask. No penalty was called on the play. Bishop had to leave the game and Andrei Vasilevskiy came in relief. The Lightning handled the next several minutes well, not allowing the Sharks to build momentum from Ward’s goal. But with just under six minutes left, they took another penalty. Burns rifled a shot from the left circle into the top of the net, cutting the Lightning to 4-3.
That third goal buoyed the Sharks, who pushed hard in the final five and a half minutes. But the Lightning defended well – they blocked several shots and received four more saves from Vasilevskiy. That was enough to get them to across the finish line.
The Sharks applied a lot of pressure during stretches in second and third periods. They had 30 shots in the final 40 minutes. But as a whole, the Lightning did a nice job of limiting San Jose’s Grade-A chances, even when they were struggling to clear pucks. Strangely, on the night when they Lightning allowed three power play goals, I thought the penalty killing, as a whole, was pretty good. Even with the three PPG against, the Bolts killed off five others. Still, the constant parade to the box sapped any potential Lightning momentum and gave the Sharks opportunities to slice into the Tampa Bay lead.
Clearly, the Lightning will need to do a better job of staying out of the box on Sunday against the Kings. That, and a solid overall performance, will give them a chance to sweep all three games on the California swing.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Team effort in the final five and a half minutes to protect the 4-3 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Assist.
3.Brent Burns – Sharks. Goal and assist.