The Tampa Bay Lightning conclude a three-game California road trip Saturday afternoon when they visit the San Jose Sharks for the first of two meetings this season.
After a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night that gave the Lightning an even split of their first eight games, coach Jon Cooper reiterated the process he and his staff are going through. Personnel changes, especially on the back end, have led to inconsistencies.
“We’ve got quite an influx of new guys, more than we’ve ever had before,” Cooper said. “So it’s going to take a little bit of getting used to. But that’s part of the process. And so is it disappointing to say where we are? There’s no question, just in the sense that I think we could’ve played better than we have.”
Against Anaheim, three new defensemen comprised half of the blueliners, with Nick Perbix, Philippe Myers and veteran Ian Cole in the lineup, while another, Haydn Fleury, was scratched.
Cooper called Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Los Angeles to the Kings an “easily winnable game halfway through.” But he added that his group got away from the plan that had been laid out, costing them the victory, while starting the trip on the wrong note.
The 6-foot-6 Myers — acquired from the Nashville Predators in a trade for Ryan McDonagh — was sloppy with the puck in his own end in the second period at Anaheim. After whiffing on a clearing attempt, Myers allowed Troy Terry to outwork him for a steal and then a goal seconds later to tie the score.
“Just inconsistency,” Cooper said of his club’s biggest problem. “I think we’ve thrown some games together and some periods together. And at times we haven’t. We’re trying to find ourselves.”
San Jose has found itself of late, winning three of its last five games, including a pair in overtime, after an 0-5-0 start to the season.
On Thursday, with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town, captain Logan Couture scored twice to reach the 300-goal plateau, but it was Erik Karlsson who provided the late heroics for a 4-3 victory.
After a pass from Timo Meier, the offensive-minded defenseman Karlsson went on a breakaway against Toronto’s Erik Kallgren and scored his second overtime winner in a week 57 seconds into the extra period.
First-year coach David Quinn said the first victory at San Jose in four tries was a result of a full team effort.
“I thought we were intense from the drop of the puck,” Quinn said. “That’s a dangerous team. You see the talent they have. We deserved to win tonight. We deserved the two points tonight.”
Couture, 33, became the third San Jose player to reach 300 goals, joining Patrick Marleau (522) and Joe Pavelski (355). The trio each netted their first 300 goals with the Sharks.
“We found a way against a good hockey team with a lot of skill up front, and I think we forced them to play the game we wanted to play, rather than the game they wanted to play,” Couture said.
San Jose has lost seven of the past eight games (1-6-1) against the Lightning and hasn’t beaten them since a 5-2 home win on Jan. 5, 2019.
–Field Level Media