As the season drags on and the Tampa Bay Lightning (21-21-5) continue to fight and claw to get back into a playoff position, they know that they can’t afford to leave any points on the table, especially during the thick of a six-game road trip. Unfortunately for the Bolts, missed opportunities throughout Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks (28-16-2) led to a missed opportunity at grabbing two crucial points.
Logan Couture’s scored the game-winning goal 22 seconds into the third period, while Alex Killorn missed an open net in the final seconds, leading to the Lightning dropping their second game in a row on their current road trip, a 2-1 loss to the Sharks at the SAP Center. Ryan Carpenter scored the other goal for San Jose while Aaron Dell, making the rare start in place of All-Star goaltender Martin Jones, got the win for the Sharks by stopping 24 of 25 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy took the loss for the Lightning despite turning aside 22 of 24 shots, while Jonathan Drouin scored the lone goal for Tampa Bay, one that was not only his 14th of the season, but one that will be played on highlight reels for the rest of the season.
The Lightning continued their recent trend of solid first period play on this road trip, as the Bolts out-shot San Jose 12-7 in the opening period, including a 7-1 advantage in the opening five minutes of the game. Ondrej Palat and Brian Boyle had a pair of solid early chances, and although Vasilevskiy didn’t face a lot of shots early on, he was forced to make a big stop on Joel Ward about eight minutes in, as Ward got behind the Lightning’s defense. Tampa Bay controlled play and kept San Jose’s speed bottled up, not allowing them much extended time in the Bolts’ zone. Both teams even played four-on-four late in the period after Ward was called for holding and Killorn was whistled for embellishment, although it didn’t look like Killorn took a dive. After Killorn got out of the penalty box, he had a great opportunity on a rebound in front, but Dell was able to turn it aside with under two minutes left in the period.
During the opening minutes of the second period, the ice was tilted in the opposite direction, as San Jose dominated puck possession, keeping the action in Tampa Bay’s zone for much of the opening five minutes. Vasilevskiy was forced to make a huge save on Melker Karlsson following a turnover by Jason Garrison, as Ward took the puck and found Karlsson open in front. However, Vasilevskiy was able to slide over and make a huge save to keep it scoreless. It wouldn’t stay that way long, as the Sharks broke the ice on a goal by Carpenter. Brent Burns kept the puck in the zone and worked it to Paul Martin. Martin skated along the right wing boards and then dished it into the right circle for Carpenter, whose blast banked off the skate of Nikita Nesterov and into the net for his second goal of the season, putting the Sharks up 1-0 at the 5:01 mark.
That lead wouldn’t last, however, as the Lightning’s stellar power play got their first chance of the night when Brendan Dillon was called for tripping Boyle at the 5:37 mark. During the ensuing power play, Drouin went to receive a pass, but couldn’t corral it, and the puck went back to the neutral zone. Drouin chased it down, circled around near center ice and turned on the jets down the right wing. He blew by Mikkel Boedker and then got around Marc-Edouard Vlasic before cutting back towards the net and making a move around Dell before tucking the puck into the net and earning a permanent spot on highlight reels everywhere, tying the game 1-1 at the 6:51 mark. Boyle and Nikita Kucherov got the assists on Drouin’s seventh power play goal of the season, which leads Tampa Bay in that category. Both teams had their surges in the later stages of the period, as both teams remained tied 1-1 heading into the final period, with the Lightning holding a 20-13 advantage in shots on goal.
Much like the second period, the Sharks came out flying to begin the final period, and this time they cashed in much sooner. Following a battle for the puck behind the Lightning net, Couture took control of a loose puck and flung a shot on net from down low that beat Vasilevskiy under his leg to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Couture’s 15th goal of the season was assisted by Kevin Lebanc and Joonas Donskoi, and it was a shot that Vasilevskiy would probably want back. Just 22 seconds later, Karlsson took a slashing penalty that gave the Bolts a power play, but they missed a chance at tying the game by not being able to generate any quality chances on it. The two teams would later trade chances as the period went on, including a 2-on-1 chance that Michael Bournival shot high over the net. Vasilevskiy made a few key stops on a late Sharks power play to keep it a one-goal game, and with a minute left, the Lightning pulled him for an extra attacker. However, they were unable to generate many quality chances in that time, until Killorn had his final chance from the high slot and missed an open look.
Tampa Bay will look to rebound on Saturday night when they travel to Glendale, Arizona for a date with the struggling Arizona Coyotes in the fourth contest of their road trip. Puck drops at 8 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Aaron Dell – The Sharks’ backup goaltender got the rare start and came up big, stopping 24 shots
2nd Star: Logan Couture – Notched the game-winning goal 22 seconds into the third period.
3rd Star: Jonathan Drouin – Had a game-high four shots on goal and scored a spectacular goal that tied the game in the second period.