SAN JOSE -– Not even the return of their best defenseman could end the Sharks’ losing ways and inflated goals-against average lately.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic suited up on San Jose’s blue line after a four-game absence with an upper body injury, but Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan each had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 Lightning win.
Tampa Bay extended San Jose’s home losing streak to five games (0-3-2), winning for the first time in the Bay Area since March 24, 2003.
The game-winner came early in the third. The Sharks won the faceoff to start the period, but Vlasic turned it over in the neutral zone, leading to Ondrej Palat carrying it in. Brent Burns failed on a chance to clear it and the puck went right back to Palat, who took a shot while Burns turned away. It bounced in off of Burns' skate just 10 seconds in for a 3-1 Tampa Bay lead.
Burns got one back on the power play, redirecting in a pass from Marleau at 11:38 for his 15th goal.
The Lightning sealed their 35th win at 16:19, though, when Cedric Paquette’s wrist shot beat Antti Niemi to the glove side to restore the two-goal cushion. Callahan’s empty-netter at 17:40 capped the scoring.
The Sharks (29-21-8, 66 points) remain in second place in the Pacific Division, but the contending teams that trail them all have several games in hand. They are just 2-4-2 in their last eight.
For the fifth straight game, the Sharks allowed the first goal. It can late in an evenly played first period, when Stamkos blasted in his 30th of the year from just inside the blue line. It came at 19:44 with an extra attacker on the ice due to a delayed penalty.
The lead increased to 2-0 in the second. Callahan snuck towards the net behind Patrick Marleau, took a cross-ice feed from Stamkos, and had his shot deflected by Alex Killorn at 7:12.
Logan Couture cut into that lead before the end of the middle frame, though. He got free of Stamkos and glided into the high slot, where Matt Nieto found him from along the wall. Couture whizzed it cleanly past Ben Bishop with a quick wrist shot midway through regulation for his 21st of the season.
Nieto nearly tied the score later in the second, but couldn’t get a shot off on a partial breakaway with about five minutes left before the break.
Tampa Bay kicked off a five-game road trip that continues in Los Angeles on Monday night.
The Lightning beat the Sharks in regulation for just the second time in the last 13 meetings.
San Jose went 1-for-3, and is 4-for-15 with a man advantage over the last six games.
The Sharks had allowed one power play goal against in each of their last four games, but were 1-for-1 against the Lightning, needing only to kill off a Patrick Marleau delay of game minor in the second period.
Niemi started for the 10th time in the last 11 games, and allowed four goals on 32 shots. He is 5-1-1 in his career vs. the Lightning.
Bishop, who was pulled in his last outing after allowing five goals in two periods, recorded the win with 32 saves.
Couture increased his point streak to six games. He has three goals and five assists over that span.
Mirco Mueller was scratched in order to make room for Vlasic. The rookie had played in the previous five games.
The Sharks have just two games remaining before the Stadium Series game on Saturday against the Kings at Levi’s Stadium.
On Tuesday, San Jose makes its only visit of the year to Nashville. The Sharks beat the first place Predators at SAP Center on Dec. 13, 2-0, behind 29 saves from Niemi.
On Thursday, the Sharks are in Dallas to face Jason Demers and the Stars.