The Lightning played well at the beginning of the first period and carried the action in the third, but were not able to put together a full 60-minute performance in this game. That wasn’t good enough against the San Jose Sharks, who were coming off two disappointing losses and looking to turn their fortunes around.
Both goalies were terrific in this game – the teams combined for 71 shots, but only three went in. Ben Bishop was especially sharp in the first period, when he turned aside 17 San Jose shots (eight of them came in the final five minutes of the period – and six of those eight occurred during a Sharks power play).
Early in the second, Niemi made a wonderful pad save on Ryan Callahan and moments later, Joe Thornton jumped on a Lightning turnover in the Tampa Bay end and roofed a shot over Bishop’s shoulder. That goal sparked the Sharks, who dictated play for most of the second.
Down 2-0 entering the third, the Lightning put forth a spirited effort, firing 16 shots on net. But except for allowing a goal on a Steven Stamkos deflection, Niemi was outstanding, particularly during a Lightning five-on-three power play. He made three point blank stops on Callahan during the two-man advantage as well as a tough stop on a Stamkos slapshot.
One could make the argument that, if not for Niemi’s performance in the third, the Lightning would have gotten points out of this game. But the Sharks could say the same about Bishop’s play (that the final score might have been more lopsided).
There have been games in which the Lightning have struggled though a rough stretch, but still come up with points. It didn’t happen tonight. They’ll look for a more even performance on Saturday against another good team: the New York Islanders.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Niemi’s key saves, which held the Lightning to only one goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Antti Niemi – Sharks. 32 saves for win
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 37 saves on 39 shots.
3.Joe Thornton – Sharks. Goal. Won eight of 11 faceoffs.