Tampa Bay despite having played better on the road as of late had little chance from the outset of the game to knock off the top-ranked Sharks. Playing in the second game of back-to-backs the Lightning were doomed for a rough night against a well-rested San Jose team who had been off since Saturday.
The Sharks didn't waste any time in gaining the early advantage. At the 2:17 mark of the opening period Devin Setoguchi cashed in for his 20th goal on the season, depositing the games first goal on a terrific feed from Joe Thornton who was set up behind the Tampa Bay net.
That wouldn't be the end of Thornton's night on the score-sheet, as the Sharks' all star put his team up 2-0 at the 14:19 mark of the first period. Shortly after the Sharks' Douglass Murray and the Lightning's Jeff Halpern received matching minors for roughing, Tampa Bay defenseman Vladmir Mihalik was called for tripping, giving San Jose a four-on-three man advantage.
Thornton would then make the Lightning pay as after some back and forth passing with Patrick Marleau behind the Tampa net, the play-making center skated out front and fed a pass across that caromed off a Lightning players' stick and past Ramo for the 2-0 lead.
After the break, the Lightning came out strong in the second, but it appeared the Sharks had lengthened their lead to 3-0 when Michalek scored. However the play was reviewed and the refs determined that Michalek had distinctly kicked the puck in and the goal was disallowed.
Shortly there after the Lightning got their only goal of the game at 7:47 when Jonathan Cheechoo accidentally deflected the puck onto the stick of Mark Recchi who fired a slap shot that rookie center Steven Stamkos re-directed past Nabokov to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1.
At that point, it looked like there might be a close game the rest of the way but any idea of that was sniffed out by Joe Thornton. Exactly half way through the game, at the 10-minute mark of the second period, Thornton tallied his second goal on a rebound of a Marleau shot that had been tipped by Setoguchi.
The shot was stopped by the right pad of Lightning goal-tender Karri Ramo but rebounded right onto the stick of Thornton who slid the puck over the goal line for his 11th goal on the season.
Any chance the Lightning had to come back from the 3-1 deficit would be nullified by their failure to stay out of the penalty box. A string of penalties at the end of the second period allowed for San Jose to score twice in the final four minutes of the period.
The first of which was from Milan Michalek who fired in his 10th of the year on a rebound from a Marc-Eduard Vlasic point shot. And with just 3.6 seconds remaining, Ryane Clowe was all alone in front of the Tampa Bay goal and slammed home a backhand feed from Joe Pavelski through the five-hole of Karri Ramo.
However the four-goal cushion wasn't enough for the Sharks whose coach has continually pushed for them to get better at finishing teams off in the third period. And it took San Jose only 34 seconds into the final period to score their sixth of the game when Joe Pavelski got off the snide with his 12th on the season.
And lastly, but certainly not least (well-maybe least, depending on your opinion), the fourth line of Semenov-Phihal-Staubitz cashed in with a goal of their own. Just a couple minutes after Pavelski's goal, Brad Staubitz's slap shot from the top of the zone by the boards was deflected short-side by Phihal up and over the shoulder of Karri Ramo.
The Sharks would put the game into cruise control from that point forward. However Tampa Bay was placed so far off their game that their players started to unravel in the final period. After a whistle for an off-sides on the Sharks, Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin took a cheap shot at the Sharks' Mike Grier, finishing his check a good second after the play had been blown dead.
Grier got up and was ready to drop the gloves but was so animated in doing so that the linesman held him back. Apparently dropping your gloves is unsportsmanlike so both Grier and Artyukhin received matching minors.
The emotion shown from the Sharks' assistant captain got the HP Pavilion crowd to start a "Let's-go-Grier" chant two or three different times while the forward was in the penalty box.
Later in the third, both Lightning forward Vaclav Prospal and defenseman David Koci were handed 10-minute misconducts along with their minor penalties, ending both their nights early.
San Jose was clearly under Tampa's skin with their dominating style of play much in part to Shark defenseman Douglas Murray who along with attributing two assists, was his usual physical self.
Murray almost even had his first fight some time but ended up receiving two minutes for roughing because Lightning forward Jeff Halpern lost his edge trying to throw the first punch. Whether or not Halpern fell on purpose is debatable because nobody has wanted anything to do with 6' 4" 240-pound Swede this season.
Nabokov was once again stellar in goal, turning away 24 of 25 shots including a couple of dandys off of Lightning all-star forward Vinny Lecavalier.
The Sharks had everything their new head coach could ask for on Tuesday, but a bigger test comes up next as San Jose will try to avenge their most recent loss, losing 5-2 in Calgary last week, as the Flames come into to town on Thursday.