All three members of the Lightning first line scored three points each
Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice, the Lightning overcame a goal in the first thirty seconds of the game, and Tampa Bay cruised to an easy win in San Jose on Wednesday night as they beat the Sharks 5-1.
San Jose got off to a quick start, scoring on their very first shift of the game. Joonas Donskoi netted his fifth goal of the season just twenty five seconds in. The goal was the result of strong early pressure from the Sharks, which continued for about the first five minutes of the game. Once the Lightning were able to take control of the puck, the game started to change. Jack Dotchin evened the score 7:17 into the first period, getting the first goal of his career. The rest of the first was uneventful, save for both teams trading displays of poor power plays and excellent penalty kills.
The Lightning started the second period on the power play, and they started strong. Nikita Kucherov lit the lamp just 44 seconds into the period to give Tampa Bay the 2-1 lead and point momentum in the Bolts’ favor. Tampa Bay held that momentum throghout the rest of the period, adding goals from Slater Koekkoek and Vladislav Namestnikov to finish the second period up by a score of 4-1.
In addition to the excellent Tampa Bay first line scoring twice in the period, what really made the difference was that the Lightning controlled the action and kept the puck in the offensive zone for the bulk of the time.
That first line of Stamkos, Kucherov, and Namestnikov was particularly effective on Wednesday night because they were able to connect a number of sharp passes that set up clear shots on goal. All three linemates collected two points in that second period, showing that the Lightning value quality as much as quantity when it comes to shots.
A power play goal from Namestnikov 6:14 into the final period accounted for the Lightning’s fifth goal of the night. That would end up being the final goal of the night, as the scoring would stop with the score 5-1. It was also the only special teams goal for either team in six attempts. For most of the game, both Tampa Bay and San Jose struggled on the man advantage, with power plays getting eaten quickly by both teams’ sharp penalty killing units, but in the third period Namestnikov broke through
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves on the night. Many of the shots allowed on Vasilevskiy were simple for the netminder to stop, as the Lightning defense did a good job after that first shift at limiting the quality of chances that the Sharks would get. Meanwhile, Sharks starting goalie Martin Jones was taken out of the game after allowing four goals, with Aaron Deli handling duties for San Jose the rest of the way. All this despite the Sharks finishing with a one shot edge in shots taken.
Tampa Bay also exhibited an excellent penalty killing unit on Wednesday night, ending their first two penalties early by drawing San Jose into penalties of their own.
The Lightning will be back in action late on Thursday night as their California swing continues. The Bolts are at Staples Center tonight, facing the Los Angeles Kings in a matchup of two of hockey’s most successful early teams. Los Angeles has 24 points, third in the league behind St. Louis and Tampa Bay. It will be a classic battle of offense vs. defense, as the Lightning come in first in the NHL in goals per game and the Kings come in first in the league in goals allowed per game.