The San Jose Sharks returned to their home ice at HP Pavilion Monday, as they played host to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in a special Holiday 5 p.m. start. Thanks to goals from Milan Michalek, Kyle McLaren and Nils Ekman, the Sharks defeated the Lightning by the final score of 3-1.
Vesa Toskala took to the net for Team Teal, while Tampa Bay backup Sean Burke opposed him in net.
The first scoring chance of the game came from Tampa Bay when a puck was turned over deep in San Jose’s own end. Vincent Lecavalier stole the puck and fired a shot on goal, but Toskala made the acrobatic save.
The contest remained back and forth as only five shots were fired between the two teams for the first 12 minutes of play. The Sharks dodged a bullet on an attempted slap shot by Martin St. Louis. Firing from the point, the shot rang loudly off the crossbar, deflecting completely out of the zone.
It would be San Jose who would strike first just over 13 minutes into the first. Patrick Marleau skated down the right side leading a three-on-two. At the last second he fed Michalek in front of the net and the right wing flicked the shot past Burke. The Sharks led 1-0.
Just ten seconds later San Jose was sent on their first power play of the night when Pavel Kubina was sent to the box for boarding. The Sharks couldn’t muster a shot on goal during the two-minute span and the game was back to five-on-five.
The first period ended with the Sharks leading 1-0 despite Tampa Bay holding a 9-4 shot advantage.
When play resumed in the second stanza, San Jose went on a power play when Vaclav Prospal was called for hooking, but the Sharks could not convert on the advantage. Ekman stuffed a puck across the line, but the ref had blown the play dead.
When the power play ended, San Jose kept the pressure on. First is was a Marleau backhander from the slot that Burke fought to handle. Then Cheechoo hit the post, followed by Joe Thornton just missing on a pass to a wide open Ekman. San Jose was attacking, but the lead remained one midway through the contest.
When San Jose did add to their lead, it was the defense that led the offense. After Joe Thornton put on two nice moves to avoid a defender and draw the attention of another, he spotted McLaren dipping down into the slot. The big blueliner wound up on the one-timer and slammed it past Burke.
Fredrik Modin was called for a two minute penalty late in the second, putting San Jose a man up for virtually the remainder of the period.
The period expired without an additional tally and San Jose with a 2-0 lead.
Joe Thornton went to work right off the bat to begin the third in the defensive zone. He stripped a Tampa Bay blueliner of the puck and fed Cheechoo who skated in on Burke. Once Burke got set, Cheechoo rifled off a shot, only to hear the sound of the goal post. The puck bounced away form the crease and was cleared.
A Niko Dimitrakos penalty put the Lightning on an early power play in the third, but the penalty killers never let Toskala be seriously challenged and the score remained the same.
With less than ten minutes remaining, it looked as if Toskala was headed for a shutout, but Brad Richards flung a shot toward the net from the point and it was redirected top shelf on the Finnish netminder. Within a minute, the Lightning found the back of the net again, but it was clearly highsticked in and the faceoff was sent out of the zone.
San Jose was not content to just sit back and try and hold on. Marleau, McCauley and Ekman all had opportunities on Burke, but the veteran netminder was keeping his club within striking distance.
Just as the clocked ticked under two minutes, San Jose found the insurance tally. Ekman skated in alone on Burke and while Burke got a piece of the puck, it was not enough to stop the puck as it crossed the line.
With 1:10 left in the game Tom Preissing was sent to the box for hooking. Tampa Bay called a timeout, drawing up a plan and pulling their goalie in favor of an extra attacker. The Lightning could only manage one shot on goal during the span and the Sharks skated off with the 3-1 victory.
-With his assist on Milan Michalek’s first period goal, Patrick Marleau set a new career high in assists with 30.
The Sharks will play host to the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio network and sjsharks.com.