Sharks look to remain perfect on road trip, face Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — The San Jose Sharks are entering the third contest of a six-game road trip, and while they're pleased to have two wins to open the trek, there's just as much urgency Saturday as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It's been a great start, but it starts all over again,” defenseman Brent Burns said after a 4-2 win at the Florida Panthers on Thursday. “It's just nice to win. It doesn't really matter (where). This league is all about just winning, getting the two points. Every night, it doesn't matter.”
The Lightning (8-5-1) have already had a six-game road trip this season, and they won their first two as well – only to lose the next three en route to a split.
Tampa Bay has been especially strong on its home ice with a 5-1-1 record at Amalie Arena, so the Lightning will try to make the most of their home dates before a busy road swing ahead.
“We had a monster six-gamer already, and after the San Jose game, we have 12 of our next 17 on the road,” coach Jon Cooper said Friday. “You really depend on your leaders to get you through those. Those guys have to be mentally ready for these.”
San Jose is 4-4-0 on the road this season, with the second-most road wins in the Western Conference. The Sharks leaned hard on goalie Martin Jones, who has a 2.30 goals-against average and stepped up as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit on Thursday against the Panthers.
Tampa Bay has taken some of the load off starting goalie Ben Bishop, with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy now taking one game a week, including Thursday's 4-1 win against the New York Islanders.
The Lightning's strong suit has been their power play, which ranks third in the NHL with a 26.3 percent success rate. They scored twice with the man advantage Thursday and built an early 3-0 lead in the first 25 minutes against the Islanders.
San Jose is well-equipped to handle that, however, with a penalty kill that is fifth in the league, stopping opposing power plays 88.6 percent of the time.
The first power-play goal Thursday for the Lightning came from center Steven Stamkos, who ranks third in the NHL in points with eight goals and nine assists, just ahead of teammate Nikita Kucherov. The Sharks have gotten five goals and nine assists from center Joe Pavelski, and Burns is the top scoring defenseman in the NHL so far, with six goals and seven assists on the season.
The Lightning hope to scratch out one more home win before they're the ones starting a road trip — their next five are all on the road, including back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday against the Islanders and Red Wings. They went 0-2-0 in their only other back-to-back so far this season.