Joe Thornton and Tyler Kennedy scored and Antti Niemi was sensational in net as the Sharks beat the Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday night, 2-1.
The Sharks snapped a modest two-game losing streak while giving the Lightning, who entered as the top team in the Eastern Conference, their first regulation loss since Oct. 25 (6-0-1).
San Jose (9-7-2) improved to 2-2 on a seven-game road trip.
The Sharks scored both of their goals in the second period to go out in front, 2-0.
First, Eric Brewer and Brian Boyle got mixed up in the Lightning defensive zone, and Thornton took advantage of the egregious turnover to deposit his fifth goal and second in as many games at 5:23, unassisted.
A generous goalie interference call on Tyler Johnson led to a power play marker at 10:37 by Kennedy. After Brent Burns appeared to aid Johnson’s coming into contact with Antti Niemi on a goalie interference minor, the defenseman sprung Kennedy on a breakaway just after the advantage expired, and Kennedy flung in his first goal of the season.
Kennedy, who didn’t make his season debut until Nov. 6, ended a 29-game goalless drought. It was his first since Jan. 14, 2014 at Washington, and ended up being the game-winner.
Niemi ended a personal three-game losing streak, making 32 saves. His most timely stop came with the game still scoreless about five minutes into the second period, when he prevented Ryan Callahan’s shot from the circle after the former Rangers captain skated around Justin Braun.
Niemi and the penalty kill helped maintain the 2-0 third period lead after tripping penalties to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Wingels gave the Lightning a two-man advantage for more than a minute.
Niemi held the fort on Callahan, stopping him three times directly in front of the net, and got enough of a shot by Jonathan Drouin attempt to slow the puck down enough so that Braun could backhand it out of the crease.
The Lightning got on the board midway through the third when Steven Stamkos tipped a point shot by Andrej Sustr at 9:35, but that was all Niemi would allow.
The game marked the second time the Sharks were able to rebound with a win against one of the NHL’s best teams immediately following a loss to one of the worst. San Jose fell to Florida on Tuesday, 4-1, and earlier this year beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1, one day after losing 2-1 to Buffalo.
After some bad starts to games in Dallas, Chicago and Florida to start the road trip, San Jose held the territorial edge for most of the first period against the Lightning.
The Sharks outshot Tampa Bay 17-9 in the opening frame, but some strong play by Ben Bishop kept it scoreless. The big netminder stopped Joe Pavelski three minutes into the game, stoned Patrick Marleau with 4:41 to go, and denied Wingels’ open look with 3:20 left on a power play.
The Sharks won for the first time against an Atlantic Division opponent (1-3-0). They close out the season series against Tampa Bay on Feb. 18 at SAP Center, and are 9-1-2 in their last 12 meetings vs. the Lightning.
The Sharks were 0-for-3 on the power play despite generating 12 shots on goal.
The Lightning finished 0-for-4, including the third period two-man advantage. San Jose is 8-for-8 on the penalty kill in its last three games, and 15-for-17 in the last six.
Niemi improved to 5-0-1 in his career against the Lightning, and 7-5-1 on the season.
Bishop (9-2-2) took just his second regulation loss of the year with 37 stops.
For the first time in his career, Troy Grosenick served as an NHL backup, after Alex Stalock was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. Stalock had surgery on his left knee on Thursday in the Bay Area, but is not expected to be out long term.
For the first time this season Adam Burish was a healthy scratch. The Sharks’ fourth line consisted of Andrew Desjardins centering Kennedy and Tye McGinn.
Wingels skated with James Sheppard and Barclay Goodrow on the third line, while Matt Nieto took Wingels’ vacated wing spot with Marleau and Logan Couture.
The Sharks begin a stretch of three games in four nights on Saturday in Columbus, where they will look to avenge a last-minute 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets at home on Oct. 24.
They face Carolina on Sunday and are in Buffalo on Tuesday to close out the lengthy road trip. The Sharks host Florida on Thursday, Nov. 20 in their next home game.