The San Jose Sharks ended the season’s first half on a positive note and will try to add to that when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night to finish the season series.
Sitting in seventh place in the eight-team Pacific Division, the Sharks will face a tall task when they make their only appearance of the season in Tampa.
History is not on their side.
In the season’s first matchup on Oct. 29, San Jose appeared to be headed to overtime tied at 3 with the defending Eastern Conference champions, but the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov notched the game-winning tally with 57 seconds left. The 4-3 win finished Tampa Bay’s 2-1-0 road trip to three California cities.
San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson scored twice and forward Nico Sturm added a goal, but Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves to allow the late victory to unfold. Victor Hedman, Ross Colton and Alex Killorn were the other goal-scorers for the Lightning.
The Sharks have endured hard times against Tampa Bay, dropping the past six meetings (0-5-1) and eight of nine overall (1-7-1) since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
However, the run-up to the All-Star break was somewhat positive for coach David Quinn’s bunch. The Sharks earned points in the past three matches (1-0-2), including a 6-4 road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 28 in the final pre-break match.
Logan Couture produced a career-high five points — two goals, three assists — including the game-winning marker as the Sharks went to the hiatus by snapping a four-game losing streak (0-2-2).
“No one’s been kicked in the gut more than us this year,” Quinn said postgame. “To dust ourselves off and come in here and show up the way we did tonight, I couldn’t be more proud of our group.”
On Sunday, the Sharks traded defenseman Jaycob Megna, 30, to the Seattle Kraken for a fourth-round draft pick this year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna had a goal, 11 assists and a plus-6 rating in 48 games this season for the Sharks, often paired with Karlsson.
The Lightning will arrive home to face the Sharks after getting dismantled by the rival Florida Panthers 7-1 on Monday night in Sunrise, Fla.
Panthers All-Star Matthew Tkachuk notched two goals and three assists, former Lightning center Carter Verhaeghe had two goals and two assists, and the Panthers handed Tampa Bay its worst loss of the season.
Including a four-game sweep in last season’s playoffs, Tampa Bay had beaten Florida seven straight times and was on a three-game winning streak overall.
None of that mattered against the Panthers, whose second line of Tkachuk, Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett amassed 12 points.
“My concern is not about tonight,” Cooper said after the six-goal defeat. “My concern’s about tomorrow. Let’s see how we respond, because this one’s over. Games like this don’t happen very often to us, but it’ll be really interesting to see how we come out tomorrow.”
Tampa Bay third-line forward Ross Colton left the game in the third period after blocking a shot with his foot. Lightning fourth-liner Vladislav Namestnikov was hurt early in the contest after an awkward fall after a hit from defenseman Radko Gudas at center ice, but he returned to action.
–Field Level Media