Lightning’s terrific trio too much for Sharks
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It doesn’t matter on what coast the game is played, Tampa Bay’s top line is dominating anywhere it goes.
The Lightning got a combined nine points from Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov during a 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
Stamkos contributed three assists to boost his league-leading point total to 28. Kucherov scored his NHL-leading 15th goal and added two assists. And Namestnikov scored two goals and added an assist as Lightning coach Jon Cooper earned his 200th win.
“We obviously have a lot of fun, but we work hard,” Stamkos said. “Tonight was a night where maybe things weren’t bouncing our way early on but our line played well and just kept building on it. It was nice to get rewarded.”
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said of the Lightning trio, “They’re good players for sure. They made some plays, played with the puck a lot. And partly that’s on us. Any time we had it, we seemed to give it back to them. They got a lot from us tonight. But, no doubt, they create a lot as well.”
When Namestnikov scored his second of the game and seventh of the season on a power play at 6:14 of the third period against Aaron Dell, who relieved San Jose starting goalie Martin Jones after two periods, it capped the most lopsided loss this season for San Jose.
The Sharks (8-6-0) saw their four-game winning streak end.
“It was one of those games that got away from us way too fast,” Pavelski said.
The Lightning (12-2-2) tilted the ice in the second period, scoring three goals to open a 4-1 lead and outshooting the Sharks 14-9 in the process.
“We had no panic,” Stamkos said. “Great response in the second and third. Probably the second for sure was probably our best period of the year. That’s against a really good team. Obviously a big one for us.”
Kucherov broke a 1-1 tie 44 seconds into the period, just following the conclusion of Tampa Bay’s second power play.
The teams subsequently traded failed power plays before defenseman Slater Koekkoek slipped a puck between the pads of Jones, who was hugging the post and could not prevent Koekkoek’s third goal of the season at 9:21.
The visitors struck again at 12 minutes when Namestnikov tapped a great cross-ice pass from Stamkos past Jones on the weak-side post for a 4-1 lead.
“It always feels like you come to this building and they jump on you,” Cooper said. “You try to weather that first five minutes, and unfortunately we gave up the (first) goal, but we really responded after that.”
The Sharks and Lightning traded goals and were tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Joonas Donskoi scored his fifth of the season after only 25 seconds with Joe Thornton earning his 1,015th career assist (one behind No. 12 all-time Joe Sakic) for an early 1-0 San Jose lead.
“We were just uncharacteristic at times,” Pavelski said. “We got the start we wanted, you could feel the energy in the building and we just took that away from ourselves.”
The Lightning struck at 7:17 when rookie defenseman Jake Dotchin stepped into a shot from the top of the right circle that clipped the skate of San Jose forward Melker Karlsson and changed direction slightly on Jones for his first career goal.
“Good start and then they scored five goals,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “That’s not what we wanted.”
Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves. Jones stopped 17 of the 21 shots he faced. Dell made eight saves on nine shots.
NOTES: Tampa Bay RW Chris Kunitz appeared in his 900th career game. ... San Jose D Marc-Edouard Vlasic rejoined the blue line after missing one game because of a head injury. ... F Jannik Hansen was re-inserted into the Sharks’ lineup after being a healthy scratch for six straight. ... Tampa Bay’s three-game road trip continues Thursday in Los Angeles. ... San Jose hosts Vancouver on Saturday. ... C Ryan Carpenter and D Dylan DeMelo were San Jose’s healthy scratches. ... C Cedric Paquette, C Gabriel Dumont and D Andrej Sustr did not dress for the Lightning, who opted to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.