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Kucherov's two goals help Lightning hold off Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The Tampa Bay Lightning nearly squandered a three-goal lead in the third period, but withstood a comeback by the San Jose Sharks and held on for a 4-3 victory at SAP Center on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, and Erik Condra and Brian Boyle each had one for Tampa Bay (13-11-3), which won its second straight game and can complete a perfect California road trip with a victory Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

"I always say if you can get more points than games played on the road, that's a good road trip, and we're at that now," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "As we told the guys after, let's be greedy, let's go for six [points] here. We're both playing back-to-backs. They got to play in an afternoon game today in L.A. Hopefully everybody's OK to go tomorrow and we can just build off this momentum."

The biggest question mark for the Lightning is goaltender Ben Bishop. He stopped 24 of 26 shots before leaving the game with 11:10 remaining after being hit in the mask by Sharks forward Tomas Hertl's stick as Hertl battled with Tampa Bay's J.T. Brown in front of the crease.

"When guys are hurt, you're a little bit frantic of what happened, but I think he's going to be OK," Cooper said. "It's just a little bit of a scare. I think the stick went into his mask, but he should be OK. I saw him after. He's got a little cut on the side of his eye. He wears contacts, too, so I think something got lodged there. So that was probably a little bit of an issue."

Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop and gave up one goal on eight shots.

"Obviously you fear for the vision, but he seems to be in decent spirits," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "Just a scary thing. Hopefully he's OK. [Vasilevskiy] gets thrown into the fire with them coming. A couple power plays. He made some big saves for us."

Matt Tennyson, Joel Ward and Brent Burns scored power-play goals for the Sharks (14-12-0). Backup goaltender Alex Stalock, who started for the sixth time this season, allowed four goals on 20 shots.

Boyle scored what proved to be the winning goal when he knocked in a rebound at 3:01 of the third period to make it 4-1. Brown made the goal possible, racing past Sharks defenseman Justin Braun along the left boards, angling toward the crease and firing a shot. Stalock made the save, but the puck trickled a few inches left of the crease and Boyle tapped it over the goal line.

"I thought I had it," Stalock said. "Even the defenders thought I had it. It was a tough bounce."

Ward cut Tampa Bay's lead to 4-2 at 8:28, redirecting Burns' shot from the point past Bishop. Burns made it a one-goal game at 14:32, beating Vasilevskiy with a blast from the left circle.

But the two late goals weren't enough to overcome a bad start.

"The first period we only gave them six shots but we spotted them two goals," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "You do that and you're going to be in trouble. We fought back but too little, too late. I like our fight for playing in a hole all night. We held them to 20 shots. That's a good effort by the whole group of defensemen."

The Sharks were without Marc-Edouard Vlasic, their top shutdown defenseman, who was out with a lower-body injury. Mirco Mueller replaced Vlasic in the lineup, and Brenden Dillon skated with Braun, Vlasic's usual partner.

San Jose went 3-for-8 on the power play, setting a season high for man-advantage goals and matching its high for attempts.

"We've had games when we only got one or two chances," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "It's good to see it coming around. It can create momentum."

The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 lead at 2:19 of the first period on Kucherov's seventh goal of the season. Kucherov skated around Burns with a slick move in the slot and put the puck past defenseman Paul Martin and Stalock.

"Just got lucky," Kucherov said.

Condra made it 2-0 at 11:20 with his third goal of the season and first since Oct. 20. Andrej Sustr sent the puck from the right boards toward the low slot, and it ricocheted off Condra's left skate and past Stalock. The goal stood after a video review determined that Condra did not use a distinct kicking motion.

The Sharks thought they had a goal at 11:55 of the second period when Mike Brown got the puck past Bishop while face down in the crease in a scrum. But the officials waved off the goal, ruling that Brown used his glove to knock the puck over the goal line. After a video review, the call stood.

However, Sustr was called for holding on the play, and the Sharks cut the deficit to 2-1 at 13:35 on Matt Tennyson's power-play goal, a one-timer from the left circle. It was Tennyson's first goal of the season.

Kucherov answered with a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 16:44. With Sharks forwards Chris Tierney and Joel Ward in the penalty box for tripping, Kucherov took a pass in the left circle from Stamkos on a rush and beat Stalock with a snap shot.

Kucherov had his first multigoal game of the season and seventh of his career.

"He's obviously a guy that can change the momentum of the game with his skill set," Stamkos said. "Great first goal early, gave us some life. Obviously that was a big goal. Our whole team's been struggling to score. An offensive guy, if you get some looks like that and they go in, that's just going to build your confidence. A lot of people sometimes forget the quality of players we don't have in this lineup. We need guys like [Kucherov] to step up and he did tonight."

Tampa Bay forwards Ondrej Palat [ankle], Cedric Paquette [upper body] and Tyler Johnson [undisclosed] are sidelined with injuries. Cooper was forced to use Stamkos, his leading goal-scorer and top offensive threat, as a penalty-killer. He blocked three shots for the game, second on the team behind Ryan Callahan's five.

"When you're killing off that many, it's tough, it's tiring on the guys," Cooper said. "And it's the same guys that are playing all the time. [Stamkos] is not usually killing off penalties, and he was doing it tonight. Everybody was chipping in and they were doing things that they don't do all the time, but it was a total team-first game. They pushed there at the end there, but the boys found a way."

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