TAMPA — How cool is it to be James Wright right now?
The Lightning's rookie left wing wasn't even supposed to make the team out of training camp and said the first time he saw his name on a Tampa Bay jersey, "it was like a dream."
Now he has a memory: his first goal, 30 seconds into Thursday's 5-2 victory over the Sharks at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It's been a whirlwind," Wright said. "Getting that goal takes a lot of pressure off me playing with those guys."
Those guys are Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, two of the game's biggest stars, together for the most part to give struggling Lecavalier a boost.
But there was Wright at the net, redirecting a feed from St. Louis past Evgeni Nabokov. It was the first time this season the Lightning scored first.
"He was tremendous," coach Rick Tocchet said of Wright. "He works as hard as anybody, maybe even harder. I'm really proud of him to score that goal."
Tampa Bay (3-3-2) needed it after two embarrassing losses in which it was outscored 11-2 and four days of "extended training camp" during which forward lines were retooled and Tocchet threatened players with loss of ice time.
Lecavalier especially sought a spark. Even though his goalless streak reached 15 games, he had three shots, won 10 of 16 faceoffs and was around the net. He also contained San Jose star Joe Thornton.
"His most solid game of the year," Tocchet said. "I don't care if he didn't score."
Steven Stamkos had two goals, including an empty-netter off a feed from wide-open Alex Tanguay, who gave up a chance to score his first goal.
"For me, making a pass is as rewarding as scoring," Tanguay said. "The way I've been snakebit, I didn't want to miss the net."
"Classiest move I've ever seen," goalie Mike Smith said. "That's karma. That will come back to him for sure."
Smith did his part with 32 saves for his first win in five starts and first since Jan. 27, three days before being sidelined with post-concussion syndrome.
Ryan Malone and Andrej Meszaros also scored, but Wright's goal resonated most. It set a tone and validated a process as Lecavalier passed forward in the offensive zone to St. Louis, who found Wright crashing the net.
"That play, we worked on it all week, and those guys executed it," Tocchet said. "It lifted the bench with all the hard work we did."
It certainly helped Wright, 19, who has one more game before Tampa Bay must decide if it will send him back to juniors. It also earned him a framed puck indicating he scored with assists by Lecavalier and St. Louis.
How cool is that?
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Wright 1 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), :30. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 7 (Hale, Downie), 15:01. Penalties—Shelley, SJ (kneeing), 2:25; Meszaros, TB (cross-checking), 7:38.
Second Period—3, San Jose, Vesce 3 (Huskins, Demers), 12:34. 4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 5, 16:39. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (holding), 6:30.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Meszaros 2 (Fedoruk, Veilleux), 2:54. 6, San Jose, Boyle 2 (Thornton, Marleau), 13:41 (pp). 7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 6 (Tanguay), 19:41 (en). Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (slashing), 12:22. Shots on Goal—San Jose 11-12-11—34. Tampa Bay 7-9-9—25. Power-play opportunities—San Jose 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—San Jose, Nabokov 5-3-1 (24 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 1-2-2 (34-32). A—13,343 (19,758).