For the Lightning, this was a dominant performance and a commanding victory to begin their California road trip. They were facing a San Jose team that had won four straight games and had held the opposition to two goals or less in six consecutive contests. It didn't matter. After a rough opening five minutes, the Lightning settled into their game. And from the second period on, they thoroughly outplayed the Sharks. The home team simply had no answer for the Lightning's display of speed, skill and relentlessness.
Still, the Lightning were not at their best at the start. Seconds into the game, they allowed a two-on-one rush. Although Andrei Vasilevskiy made the save, the Sharks ended up scoring moments later. San Jose had some other dangerous looks during the next several minutes, but Vasilevskiy kept the deficit at one.
In those opening minutes, the one Lightning line that had some offensive zone time and generated pressure was the Brayden Point unit. And that line was on the ice for Jake Dotchin's first NHL goal. Point centered the puck from behind the Sharks net and Dotchin stepped into a slapshot at the right circle. He beat Martin Jones through the pads to tie the score. The rest of the period was evenly played. Both teams generated scoring chances, but the period ended with the score tied at one.
It wouldn't stay that way for long in the second. The Lightning carried 33 seconds of power play time into the period and scored 11 seconds after the power play ended. The Bolts actually didn't have much clicking during that power play, but finally gained access to the offensive zone in the final few seconds of the man advantage. After Nikita Kucherov zipped a shot over the net, the Lightning retrieved the puck. Vladdy Namestnikov threaded a perfect pass to Kucherov in the slot and he roofed a quick shot into the top of the net, giving the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
That goal sparked the Lightning, who carried play for the rest of the period. San Jose wasn't able to get into its physical, grinding game because the Lightning forced the Sharks to chase them all over the ice. That was possible because the Lightning's passing was crisp and efficient, so they were able to use their speed effectively. The Lightning added two more second period goals, but based on their scoring chances, could have had more. Still, the tallies from Slater Koekkoek (off a quick counter rush) and Namestnikov (a tic-tac-toe passing play that started with Kucherov and Steven Stamkos) made it 4-1 after two periods.
Unlike last Saturday's game against Columbus, a contest in which the Lightning surrendered a two-goal third period lead, the Bolts managed this third period well. They limited San Jose's scoring chances and added another tic-tac-toe goal from the Stamkos line.
Outside of the opening minutes and some isolated moments later in the first period, the Lightning couldn't have asked for a better way to begin this tough road trip. They'll play the middle game of the swing on Thursday in Los Angeles, finishing this back-to-back against the Kings, who have gotten off to a similarly fast start.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov's second period goal, giving the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Vladdy Namestnikov - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal and two assists.
- Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Three assists.