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Offense returns sans Thornton
Tampa Bay no match for SJ scoring
11/6/10 - By Mike Lee -

Playing the first of two games without captain Joe Thornton, who is serving a two-game suspension, the Sharks stepped up to end a two-game skid with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at HP Pavilion. The story lines were plentiful in a game that saw the Sharks score for the first time in 6 periods. Patrick Marleau had two goals and goaltender Antero Niittymaki made 33 saves to beat his former team.

The absence of any Shark scoring during their recent road trip and Thornton's absence were the focal points of the Sharks return to home ice, but both were a distant worry after the Sharks put a five spot on Lightning goaltender Mike Smith. Niittymaki was a big reason for that, making a number of big saves throughout the evening.

After spending five season in Philadelphia, the Finnish goaltender played in 49 games for Tamp Bay last season, winning 21 of those games with a respectable .909 save percentage. His familiarity with his former teammates seemed to play to his advantage, especially in the 3rd period, when the Lightning put 19 shots on goal.

San Jose had the luxury of playing in a defensive mode during that final 20 minutes, due in part to their 4 goal lead.

The Sharks had Smith on his heels for the first 40 minutes of the game. The Sharks would vary their approach to putting pucks past the Lightning goaltender, scoring three even strength goals, a power play tally and one of the short-handed variety.

That short-handed goal came midway through the opening period, after Douglas Murray was sent off for interference. Marleau converted at 12:16 of the period after Tampa Bay phenom Steven Stamkos put a weak pass right on Marleau's tape as the Lightning were trying to skate out of their own end. Marleau scooped up the turnover and skated toward the left dot, before uncorking a shot that beat Smith for the 1-0 Sharks lead.

Martin St Louis would help Tamp Bay convert seconds after Murray's penalty ended, redirecting a shot from Stamkos past Niittymaki from the slot.

Marleau would add his 2nd of the game with 4:34 to play before the 1st intermission, putting a wrist shot past Smith on the power play. Lightning captain Vincent Leavalier was in the penalty box for hooking to help setup the goal.

Dany Heatley would give the Sharks a 3-1 lead midway through the 2nd period on a put back chance from the top of the Tampa Bay crease. Starting at center on the Sharks top line in Thornton's absence, Logan Couture carried the puck up the right side before putting a shot on Smith. The goaltender made the initial save, but a juicy rebound landed right on Heatley's stick for his 6th deposit of the season.

Rookie forward John McCarthy would add his 2nd career goal 6 minutes later with a quick one-time chance from the right post, after Jamal Mayers hustled to a loose puck behind the Lightning net and backhanded a feed to the front of the net. Skating on the 4th line, McCarthy has made the most of his limited opportunities.

Couture would add his 5th of the season just 27 seconds into the 3rd period on a redirect off a Heatley pass. The rookie centerman skated toward the net ahead of Heatley, then pivoted to face his linemate. He would get his stick blade on Heatley's feed, slipping the puck perfectly between Smith's pads for the 5-1 lead.

Niittymaki would go to work, shutting down the Lightning with a series of big saves. One of those was a big kick save on a Stamkos breakaway midway through the period.

Stamkos would crack the Sharks netminder with one-timer from the left circle with 1:47 to play. With Scot Nichol in the penalty box for interference, Lecavalier sent a cross-ice pass through the slot, where Stamkos hammered it home.

The goal was too little too late for the Lightning.


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1 2 3 T
TB 1 0 1 2
SJ 2 2 1 5
1st period - 1, SJ, Marleau 5 (unassisted), 12:16, (sh). 2, TB, St Louis 6 (Stamkos, Lecavalier), 13:58. 3, SJ, Marleau 6 (Boyle, Demers), 15:26, (pp).
2nd period - 4, SJ, Heatley 6 (Couture, Boyle), 11:27. 5, SJ, McCarthy 2 (Mayers, Murray), 17:27.
3rd period - 6, SJ, Couture 5 (Heatley), 0:27. 7, TB, Stamkos 11 (Lecavalier, Clark), 18:13, (pp).
1st period - Murray, SJ (interference), 11:50; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 15:08; Hedman, TB (delay of game – puck over glass), 17:50.
2nd period - Bergenheim, TB (holding), 0:19; Bergenheim, TB (tripping), 2:50; Malone, TB (high sticking – double minor), 11:57; Malone, TB (fighting major), 16:54; McGinn, SJ (fighting major), 16:54.
3rd period - Downie, TB (high sticking), 6:17; Huskins, SJ (high sticking), 9:12; Nichol, SJ (interference), 17:00; McGinn, SJ (interference), 19:43.
Shots Saves
TB - Smith 39 34
SJ - Niittymaki 35 33
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
TB 10 6 19 35
SJ 12 20 7 39
Power Play Conversion
TB 1 of 4
SJ 1 of 7
3 Stars of the Game
Antero Niittymaki
Patrick Marleau
Dan Boyle
Referees: Jackson, Rehman. Linesmen: Devorski, Mach.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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