Missing five games due to injury was not enough to slow down Martin St. Louis.
St. Louis, back in action for the first time since suffering facial and nasal fractures on Dec. 8, had a goal and led all team forwards in ice time, but found himself and the Tampa Bay Lightning on the wrong end of a 7-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavillion on Wednesday night.
As late as Tuesday’s team practice, it was uncertain whether or not St. Louis would be ready for the team’s two-game road trip, which wraps up Friday in Colorado against the Avalanche.
Instead, he left little doubt after taking a centering feed from Teddy Purcell behind the net and wristing one high above the left shoulder of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi to make it 6-2 at 7:45 of the final period.
“I felt encouraged,” St. Louis said. “It was uncharted territory for me [wearing a visor] because I haven’t worn one for 14 years, but they say I’ll need it for probably a month so I better get used to it quick.”
San Jose wasted little time in grabbing a quick lead to open the contest, highlighted by a five-goal first period, including two from Logan Couture just 1:34 apart that capped a 5-0 scoring surge nearly 15 minutes into the game.
Benn Ferriero, Joe Pavelski and Andrew Desjardins each had goals for the Sharks, which won for the fourth straight game on home ice.
Ferriero opened the scoring after banging in a shot on a second attempt to the short side of Mathieu Garon just 3:26 in.Pavelski then doubled the lead while on the power play at 4:51, and Desjardins’ third of the year made it 3-0, while chasing Garon from net in the process.
“That was a great start to the game, and it’s incredible to score five goals in a period. That’s tough to do throughout an entire game,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “So I thought that was a credit to the way our guys played.”
The win was the third straight for San Jose, who set a mark for the fastest five goals from the start of a regular-season game in team history, and came one shy of the franchise record for most goals in a single period.
Garon had won back-to-back games for the Lightning heading into Wednesday, but saw his night come to an end after giving up three goals on eight shots before being relieved by Dwayne Roloson approximately seven minutes following the opening puck drop.
Roloson made 31 saves for Tampa Bay, which allowed seven goals for the third time this season, tying its season high.
He was key down the stretch to keep the Sharks at bay despite a significant lead throughout the majority of the night, including two from in-close on Pavelski and another on Patrick Marleau from point-blank range in the third period to prevent the deficit from widening.
Moore cut the deficit to four at 15:38 of the first, but following a scoreless second, Brent Burns put San Jose back up five after ripping a slap shot right off the draw that beat Roloson 1:27 into the third. The Sharks converted on half of their power-play opportunities on the evening, while that of Tampa Bay’s continued to struggle.
The Lightning couldn’t find the back of the net on any of their five chances throughout the night. It had an opportunity to close the gap early on in the third after receiving an extended chance with the man advantage after San Jose’s Michal Handzus was sent off for a double-minor, but San Jose’s penalty kill, which entered Wednesday ranked 27th out of the 30-team league, denied its opponent on each attempt.
St. Louis did convert, though, at even strength to reduce the deficit to four with approximately 12 minutes to go in regulation.
Marleau was credited with the Sharks’ seventh and final goal after Tampa Bay defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron attempted to clear the puck out of the crease, but inadvertently banked it off of Roloson’s skate and in at 12:41.
Marleau, who also added an assist, now has three goals and two helpers on his current four-game point streak.
“They are a really tough team down low,” Lightning assistant coach Martin Raymond said. “As soon as we start playing with the puck behind our net, we’re looking for trouble and they capitalized on it right away.”