SAN JOSE, Calif. - There was a final minute flurry in Saturday's game, which was very much in the balance, the Sharks pressuring with an extra attacker.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, his team clinging to a one-goal lead, had failed an initial clearing attempt. He more than made up for it, desperately sliding in front of a Brent Burns slap shot, pushing the puck past the blue line in helping preserve a 4-3 win at the SAP Center.
"Do whatever it takes, right?" Stamkos said.
Tampa Bay had to do just that, including killing off five of the Sharks eight power plays. It came at a cost, with goalie Ben Bishop leaving the game midway through the third after taking a Tomas Hertl stickblade to the face. In obvious pain, Bishop looked "frantic," coach Jon Cooper said, but it sounds like he avoided serious injury. Bishop suffered a cut on the side of his eye, his availability for Sunday's game against the Kings unknown.
"I think he's going to be okay," Cooper said. "Just a little scare."
The Lightning (13-11-3) survived a scare by the Sharks, watching a 4-1 lead cut to one in the third. But Tampa Bay has won two consecutive games on this west coast trip, with a chance to sweep today against the Kings.
"Let's be greedy," Cooper said.
The Lightning was boosted by two sick goals by wing Nikita Kucherov. But after taking a 4-1 lead, the Lightning had to hold on, with Brent Burns scoring a power play goal with 5:25 left to cut it to 4-3. The Sharks went 3-for-8 on the power play Saturday.
Kucherov's first goal, coming two minutes into the game, was highlight-reel worthy. He took the puck from the right boards, slashed into the slot, deking out defenseman Brent Burns before sending a wrist shot past goalie Alex Stalock. Ten minutes later, Erik Condra scored his first goal in 19 games (Oct. 20), the puck inadvertantly bouncing in off his skate. It was his first point in 18 games.
The Sharks, with just four shots in the first period, responded in the second, outshooting Tampa Bay 14-8. Defenseman Matt Tennyson pulled the Sharks within one with six minutes left on a wicked one-timer on the power play. But Kucherov's second tally stole the momentum back, finishing off a give-and-go with Steven Stamkos with a slapshot from the left circle, over the shoulder of Stalock. Brian Boyle added a much-needed insurance goal in the third, picking up a rebound on a J.T. Brown rush. Two power play goals by the Sharks in the third made this one tight until the end.
Stamkos, who played on the penalty kill for the first time this season, had three blocks, with alternate captain Ryan Callahan with five. "Those guys wear a lettter for a reason," Cooper said.