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Lightning open trip by defeating Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- When the NHL's 2014-15 schedule came out, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper circled the five-game, 10-day road trip that began Sunday with a 5-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

"We hoped we'd be in a playoff position at this time of the year, and this would have a big effect on how we were going to finish the year," Cooper said. "To come out and get a win in a really tough building to play in, I can't say enough about the effort of the team. Especially after St. Louis knocked us around a little bit [on Thursday]. (San Jose) is exceptional. They're big, they're fast, they're strong in all areas of the ice, and for us to stand up to them, I'm pretty proud of the guys."

Goaltender Ben Bishop, who had been pulled in two of his past three starts, made 33 saves for the Lightning (35-17-6). Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan each scored a goal.

Logan Couture and Brent Burns had goals for San Jose (29-21-8), which lost its fifth straight home game and for the fifth time in its past seven games overall.

"This is frustrating," Couture said. "The mistakes we make are things we work on, we practice on and watch video. When you constantly make the same mistakes every single night, you question whether you are prepared to play.

"These are things that should have been fixed in Week 2 of the season. We all go through training camp learning the system. You have to play it. I don't care whether you're a rookie or a veteran. Our attention to details is not where it should be. It's the entire team. You lose when the team is not on the same page and that's what we're going through right now."

Tampa Bay, coming off a 6-3 loss Thursday to the St. Louis Blues, earned its first victory at SAP Center since March 23, 2003. The Lightning had lost their past five games in San Jose.

"We wanted to start this road trip on the right foot, and we did," Stamkos said. "We gave them a couple of good looks but [Bishop] was there, and we capitalized on our chances. The was a big game for [Bishop] to get his mojo back. He was terrific tonight."

Bishop was pulled after giving up five goals on 34 shots against St. Louis on Thursday. He was pulled two starts previously after giving up three goals on nine shots in a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 7. In both losses, Bishop had little luck and scant defensive help from his teammates.

"It was important for me," Bishop said of his bounce-back performance. "You look at the past few games and the numbers aren't really where you want them to be, but then you watch the game and it's kind of like you're doing the right things. It was important just not to change anything, just go out there and keep doing what I've been doing all year.

"Kind of a rough patch in the year where I think it was like five goals off your own players in four games or something. It's a long year. There's a lot of ups and downs. You try not to get too low, you try not to get too high. So after a win like this you don't get too high. It gets even harder."

Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead into the third period and needed all of 10 seconds to make it 3-1 on Palat's 12th goal of the season. Burns turned the puck over in his own zone, and Palat beat Antti Niemi from the right circle for an unassisted goal.

"The puck bounced right to me," said Palat, who ended an 11-game goal drought. "I shot it. I think it hit their D and just bounced into the net. I needed a goal like that."

Burns made amends at 11:38, scoring a power-play goal that cut Tampa Bay's lead to 3-2. Patrick Marleau sent Burns a pass in the slot, and he flipped a shot over Bishop's shoulder for his 15th goal of the season.

Paquette increased the Lightning's lead to 4-2 at 16:19, firing a shot from the right circle that got past Niemi's glove. Callahan added an empty-net goal with 2:19 left.

"There were moments we thought we did some good things tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "There were moments when details got away from us. You don't beat first-place teams like that. You have to be alert all the time."

Stamkos opened the scoring at 19:44 of the first period during a delayed penalty. He took a pass from Anton Stralman near the blue line and unleashed a slap shot that deflected off the stick of Sharks forward Tommy Wingels and past Niemi inside the left post. Killorn provided a screen in front of Niemi.

"We looked at our past couple losses and we've been down 2-0, 3-0, so we talked about getting off to a good start," Stamkos said. "Not a pretty road win, but something we can be proud of."

The goals was Stamkos' 30th, giving him four seasons with at least 30 goals. It's his first since 2011-12, when he scored 60 goals.

The Sharks outshot Tampa Bay 12-11 in the first period and had plenty of prime scoring chances, especially on their lone power play midway through the period. Couture was wide open in the right circle and ripped a shot that hit the right post. Burns, Marleau and Joe Pavelski each put a shot on goal during the power play, but Bishop didn't flinch.

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was activated from injured reserve and returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

Vlasic, San Jose's most dependable defenseman, was paired again with Burns.

Killorn increased Tampa Bay's lead to 2-0 at 7:12 of the second period with his 12th goal of the season. Stamkos sent a cross-ice pass to Callahan, who fired a shot that Killorn tipped past Niemi.

Couture answered at 10:27 of the second period with his 21st goal of the season, cutting Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1. Couture took a pass in the slot from Matt Nieto and sent a snap shot past Bishop, inside the left post.

The Lightning's road trip won't get any easier Monday when they face the surging Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. The Kings have won four in a row.

"This is the sun and the beach and the beautiful weather, but this is a business trip," Cooper said. "That's how we have to treat this. We're here to work. Unfortunately we can't enjoy this too long because we've got to jump in and play the defending [Stanley Cup] champions, who knocked us around pretty good in our building. We've got to get our rest and get ready to play tomorrow. These guys, they came to work on this trip and so far so good."

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