San Jose’s SAP Center has long been a building where the Tampa Bay Lightning have found success hard to come by.
The last five times the Bolts have visited San Jose, they’ve left with a loss.
Most of the defeats haven’t been pretty, the Lightning having been outscored 27-7.
On Sunday, in the opening contest of a five-game, 10-day road trip, the Lightning finally found the formula to escape San Jose with a win.
“I think this was a big game for Bish to get some of his mojo back,” Stamkos said. “I know we kind of laid him out to dry the last couple of starts, but I know if you ask him, he wanted to be better.
“He was fantastic tonight.”
With the win, Tampa Bay (35-17-6, 76 points) snaps a two-game losing skid. The Lightning have yet to drop more than two consecutive games all season.
They also move back into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference/Atlantic Division with Montreal.
“This one was circled on the calendar as a big one,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We hoped we would be in a playoff position this time of year, and this would have a big effect on how we were going to finish the year.”
After a solid start to the game, Stamkos provided the Lightning the opening goal with time running out in the first period. On a delayed penalty, Stamkos ripped a slap shot center point that beat partially-screened Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi (23 saves) low to his stick side for a 1-0 Bolts lead.
“We’re a different team this year,” Stamkos said. “We came here looking to prove to ourselves we wanted to start this road trip off on the right foot, and we did. We gave them a couple good looks, and Bish was there. We capitalized on our chances. Obviously a good start for us.”
Stamkos set up the Bolts second goal with a beautiful pass to Ryan Callahan in the right circle, who snapped a shot at Niemi that Alex Killorn tipped into the net for a 2-0 Lightning lead at 7:12 of the second period. Stamkos threaded the needle with a cross-ice pass between two Sharks defenders to find Callahan open. Killorn was doing the dirty work in front to get a deflection.
Killorn earned his 12th goal of the season. Callahan and Stamkos were given assists.
Logan Couture cut the Bolts’ lead in half at 10:27 of the second, tallying his 272nd career point in the process to move into ninth on the Sharks’ all-time scoring list.
Couture got free in the high slot and, with a clear path to shoot, snapped the puck past Bishop on the Sharks’ 21st shot of the evening to make the score 2-1.
Ten seconds into the final period, Ondrej Palat scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal. Palat carried into the right circle and snapped a shot that deflected up and over Niemi with Tyler Johnson creating traffic on the near post for a 3-2 Tampa Bay lead.
“I think the last couple of games, we played good as a line and we scored a couple goals,” Palat said. “Johnny and Kuch score those goals, and I pass it to them.
“Now, I score.”
The Lightning denied San Jose on its first two power-play attempts but couldn’t stop the Sharks a third time, Brent Burns backhanding a shot from the slot past Bishop with a man advantage to make it 3-2 at 11:38 of the final period.
The Bolts held on over the final ten-plus minutes, though, and Cedric Paquette, a question mark to play Sunday after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury, sealed the victory with his 12th goal of the season, a snap shot from the right circle that eluded Niemi.
“The big thing we talked about was how do you answer after you get scored on,” Cooper said. “We were not very good at it when we played St. Louis, but you can’t underestimate a shift after a goal is scored against you and after a goal is scored. And I thought all night, every time, we kind of pushed ahead, they battled back.
“For us not to break, that was big.”
Filppula and Jason Garrison had assists.
Callahan added an empty-net goal, his 17th goal of the season at 17:40.
Tampa Bay was outshot 34-32 by the Sharks (29-21-8, 66 points).
The Bolts improve to 12-5-3 versus the Western Conference and avenge a 2-1 loss earlier this season (Nov. 13) at home to the Sharks.
The Lightning return to the ice tomorrow against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center in the second game of a back-to-back set. The Kings beat the Bolts 4-2 nine days earlier at Amalie Arena.