Bolting Up- Tommy Wingles scored twice in one game for the first time in his NHL career while Antti Niemi made 36 saves as the San Jose Sharks routed the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 before a sold out house at the Shark Tank Thursday night. The Sharks win ties them for first place in the Pacific Division with the arch rival Anaheim Ducks and marks a triumphant return home after a 3-1-1 road trip. The game also marked the return of Brent Burns to the Sharks line up after a 13 game absence. Burns made the most of his return scoring a goal in the third period. The Sharks got all they could handle from Tampa Bay for the first two periods before pulling away in the third and final frame. With the win Team Teal opens this five game homestand with a strong win against a quality opponent. Brad Stuart and Patrick Marleau also scored goals for the Sharks while Logan Couture had three assist and a plus four on the evening. Andres Lindback started in goal for the Lightning and made 31 saves despite a tough evening in the net. Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning in the third period to spoil Niemi’s shutout bid.
Striking Early- The Sharks were able to get a puck past Tampa goalie Lindback early as Marleau was able to win a battle for the hot rubber biscuit against the boards to the right of the Lightning’s goal. Marleau was able to wrest the puck from two Tampa defenders before getting it over to Couture. From there Couture would feed Wingles who was able to launch a quick wrister past Lindback for a 1-0 Team Teal lead at the 3:49 mark of the opening period. The Lighting however came to play too and were able to launch their own assault in the Sharks defensive zone. Niemi was challenged early and often from Tampa’s Alex Killorn, Teddy Purcell and Richard Panik. Meanwhile after giving up an early goal Tampa’s Lindback was holding the fort for the Lighting as he would make 16 saves in the period. Late in the opening period the Sharks would increase their lead to two when Brad Stuart will drill in a slap shot from near the left point taking a rebound of a save off of Lindbacks leg pads after a wrap around attempt by Tyler Kennedy.
Storm Chasing- The second period would see the Lightning put more pressure in the Sharks offensive zone. Most of the pressure was applied by the Lightning’s top line of Martin St Louis (Saint Lou-eese) and Valtteri Fippula who when on the ice threw a lot of hot pucks Niemi’s way. Halfway through the middle period Tampa was outshooting Team Teal 10-5. However Niemi again was more than up to the task as he continued to stymie the Lightning with save after save. At the 11;47 mark of the second period Wingles would nail his second goal of the evening as he was able to position himself between two Tampa defenders, allowing Marleau to get a perfect feed pass to him from behind the Lighting’s net. The wind seemingly started to leave Tampa’s sails after Wingles’ second goal as they managed only two more shots on goal the rest of the period. Late in the period Marleau just missed increasing the Sharks lead to four as his slap shot from 50 feet away hit the post.
Lightning Rod- After surviving an early offensive onslaught in the early part of the third period the Sharks would quickly put the game out of reach with two goals in a span of 19 seconds. The first of the two goals was credited to Burns as a puck deflected off of the stick of Captain Joe Thornton hit Burns’ skate in front of the net. Thornton’s stick deflected a shot from the point by Scott Hannan. Seconds later Marleau on a breakaway would actually fan on his initial shot attempt before recovering the puck and backhanding it past Lindback. With a five goal lead the Sharks let their defense go to work to secure the game. Niemi would add 12 more saves in the third period but would see his shutout bid spoiled by Tyler Johnson who drilled a puck past Niemi at the 7:39 mark of the period. By the time the game ended the Lightning actually had one more shot on goal than the Sharks but it would just be another statistic that would add to their evening of frustration.
Big Win Versus a Quality Opponent- The Sharks won this game against the number two team in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning entered the game with a 14-6-0 overall record. Clearly Tampa missed injured star Steven Stamkos however still competed and gave the Sharks a tough game through the first two periods. This homestand certainly will not get any easier for the Sharks as New Jersey comes in Saturday night followed by Los Angeles, St Louis and arch rival Anaheim next week. The Sharks clearly looked like a team that was very happy to get back to business at the Shark Tank after going 0-1-2 in their three prior games there. All of the Sharks tonight had at least one shot on goal with the exception of Mike Brown. In addition to Logan Couture, Justin Braun and Brad Stuart all had plus four evenings on the ice. The Sharks looked a lot more like the team that we saw throughout the month of October than over the last couple of weeks. This was one of the better overall team efforts of the season. If the Sharks can play like this throughout this homestand to close out the month it will bode well for them as the season moves forward.
Twitter Quote- Thornton on Burns: “He just loves to play and compete. To watch him score goals is fun. Glad to have him back.” from @SanJoseSharks
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks will host the New Jersey Devils Saturday Night at the Shark Tank. The Devils feature former Shark Ryan Clowe who signed with the Devils in the offseason. Clowe was traded at last season’s March trade deadline to the New York Rangers. Clowe has been injured and may or may not play in this game. The Devil’s also feature NHL veterans Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. In net New Jersey has long time stalwart goalie Martin Brodeur and former Canucks goalie Cory Schneider.
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