Lightning blast Sharks, 5-1

Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News on

Published in Hockey

Tampa Bay responded at the 7:17 mark of the first, as defenseman Jake Dotchin took a pass from behind the Sharks net from Brayden Point and beat Jones with a one-timer for his first career NHL goal.

It was a frantic first 20 minutes, perhaps not quite the pace the Sharks were looking to have against one of the NHL's most dangerous offenses.

The Lightning averaged a league-best 3.87 goals per game coming into Wednesday and owned an Eastern Conference-leading record of 11-2-2. Seven of Tampa Bay's players had at least 11 points, with Stamkos and Kucherov leading the way with 25 and 23 points, respectively, to pace the NHL.

The Sharks already made some impressive statements so far this homestand with wins over Toronto, Nashville and Anaheim, as their four-game win streak was largely a product of goaltending, timely goals, puck management and limiting chances against.

Wednesday's game, it seemed, was another opportunity to show they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the league's best teams.

"They're the highest-scoring team in the league," Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday morning. "We had Toronto come in here a week or so ago. ... Similar-type team. This is probably a better, more-refined version of that, so it's going to be a great test."

The Sharks had their top shutdown defenseman ready to go Wednesday, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to the lineup after he missed Saturday's game against Anaheim with a head injury.

Vlasic passed the baseline concussion test this weekend and has been skating without issue since Saturday. Vlasic went through full practices Monday and Tuesday, took the morning skate Wednesday, said he felt good, and was eager to play against the Lightning.

"Thirteen games in, teams are starting to establish themselves," Vlasic said of Tampa Bay. "A team that has this much offense at the beginning of the year hopefully can continue it through 82 games, but there's still 60-plus games left.

"Right now, they have the best offense in the league. They've been playing 4-3, 5-4 games, us on the other side have been playing a little tighter. It'll be a great test for us defensively."

After being a healthy scratch for the last six games, forward Jannik Hansen drew back into the lineup and was on the Sharks' fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Joel Ward. Hansen had 6:15 of ice time through two periods.

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