A shutdown win just what the Lightning needed

With a victory against San Jose, Tampa Bay answers concerns and takes momentum into its 10-day break.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) celebrate Stamkos' first goal of the third period of Saturday's (1/19/19) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks at Amalie Arena in Tampa.[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) celebrate Stamkos' first goal of the third period of Saturday's (1/19/19) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks at Amalie Arena in Tampa.[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published January 21
Updated January 21

TAMPA — It was just what the Lightning needed.

Tampa Bay bounced back from a loss and headed into its bye week with a game that checked off much of what it has talked about working on recently.

The Lightning had two tough opponents for its mini homestand before the 10-day break, which began Sunday. That was probably a good thing. There was no coasting.

"Playing Toronto, San Jose the last two games, were probably the best thing for us coming off a tough loss … (5-1 against the Islanders on Jan. 13)," captain Steven Stamkos said Saturday after the 6-3 win against the Sharks.

"We responded well (with a 2-0 win in Dallas on Tuesday), then had another tough loss against Toronto (4-2 Thursday). We wanted to come in here and win. We won, and now we can rest up."

Saturday's game was what the Lightning needed in more than just a bounce-back way, though.

It was a chance to put a team away, something Tampa Bay has struggled with against good teams, and sometimes against less-than-good teams.

In a midseason assessment of the team late last month, that was general manager Julien BriseBois' concern: The Lightning needed to be able to get a lead and then shut down the opponent.

That's mostly what it did Saturday. The Lightning took a 4-2 lead with eight minutes left in the second period and expanded it to 6-2 with five minutes left in the third.

"We didn't give (the Sharks) anything, and I think they only had a couple of shots on goal," coach Jon Cooper said. "You know the score may have played a little bit into that, but part of that, too, is they try to push and negate them and add to the lead.

"I thought that was really good and stuff you're going to have to do when you get late into a playoff push."

There was some not-really-good stuff in the third. Ryan McDonagh was called for closing his hand on the puck with 4:12 to play, and with 37 seconds left in the game, the Sharks' Marcus Sorensen scored. Neither that penalty nor that goal sat well with Cooper, who mentioned both even as he praised the third-period play.

That goal stung, but it was only one against a four-goal lead. That's a far cry from when the Lightning gave up a three-goal lead to the Flyers in the third period of a game last month and had to go to overtime to win.

"I think we played overall pretty good," Yanni Gourde said of Saturday's game. "There's still a lot of work to be done. And there's always going to be areas where we can do better. But (Saturday) was a good game, and we didn't allow them too many odd-man rushes, and obviously we scored a few goals. … Overall, I think it was a pretty good game."

Note: The Lightning is in its mandatory bye week leading up to and including the All-Star Weekend on Friday and Saturday. It  won't practice again until Jan. 28, and its next game is Jan. 30 at Pittsburgh.

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