SAN JOSE, Calif. — What most saw as a long shot, Rick Tocchet believed was an opportunity.
The Lightning coach knew on paper Tampa Bay's matchup Tuesday night with the Sharks was lopsided, and not in his team's favor. San Jose entered second in the league with 67 points and undefeated in regulation at home.
"There's a lot of statistical stuff that it's an impossible game for us to win," Tocchet said before the game. "But what I said to the team, 'It's impossible, but let's go to work.' It's amazing what you can bring your mind and body to do in situations like this."
In this case, not much as the injury-depleted Lightning was steamrolled 7-1 at HP Pavilion to end a five-game, 10-day road trip at 3-2 but with a sour taste after its previous hard work.
It was Tampa Bay's largest margin of defeat this season and tied for most goals allowed, and it devolved in the second half of the third period into a mess of penalties with Vinny Prospal and David Koci getting 10-minute misconducts.
Joe Thornton had two goals and an assist for San Jose, which improved to 20-0-2 at home. The Sharks got three power-play goals and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov earned his 23rd victory, second-most in the league. Not that he had much to do as Tampa Bay (13-20-10), playing its fourth game in six nights and second consecutive back-to-back, was outshot 42-25.
Steven Stamkos had the Lightning's only goal, his fifth, and goalie Karri Ramo too many times was left hung out to dry.
For the second time in as many games the Lightning played with a thin blue line that took two more blows as Paul Ranger was scratched with an upper-body injury and Matt Smaby went on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Steve Eminger missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.
Forward Paul Szczechura went down in the second period with a lower-body injury.
Ranger, who played 27 minutes Monday, did not appear in distress in the locker room. But as Tocchet said, "There are certain things you can't jeopardize with a kid like that."
Kevin Quick, 20, was called up from AHL Norfolk for his NHL debut and joined rookie Vladimir Mihalik in a five-man rotation heavily focused on Andrej Meszaros, Lukas Krajicek and Marek Malik. Koci also chipped in on defense.
The Sharks went ahead 1-0 on Devin Setoguchi's goal 2:17 into the game to end a sequence that began along the right wing boards where he outmuscled Krajicek for the puck and passed to Thornton behind the net.
It was 2-0 with 5:41 left on Thornton's power play goal that deflected past Ramo off the stick blade of the Lightning's Adam Hall.
Stamkos' tip-in goal of Mark Recchi's slap shot cut the deficit to one 7:47 into the second period. But San Jose went ahead 3-1 on Thornton's goal at 10:00, when he was left alone in front of the net, and 4-1 on the power play with 2:39 left, when Milan Michalek beat Meszaros to the crease.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.