SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – NHL scoring leader Steven Stamkos needs only to look across the dressing room to keep track of his closest competitor. That would be Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Nikita Kucherov, two points behind.
“We don’t think about it that way,” Stamkos said. “It’s a treat to play with him. Vlady, too. I know he flies under the radar but he’s a huge part of our line.”
Vladislav Namestnikov had two goals, Kucherov scored his 15th of the season and the Lightning ended San Jose’s four-game winning streak by beating the Sharks 5-1 on Wednesday night.
Jake Dotchin got his first career goal and Slater Koekkoek also scored for the Lightning (12-2-2), who lead the NHL standings with 26 points.
“That was a big moment,” Dotchin said. “That’s something I’ve been looking forward to since Day One of being in the league. Coming on a day we win makes it even better.”
Stamkos had three assists for Tampa Bay. Kucherov added two and Namestnikov had one as all three players finished with three points. Stamkos (28 points) and Kucherov (26) rank 1-2 in the league in scoring.
“It’s fun,” Stamkos said. “And we work hard as a line to get better. Vlady is a great player and he makes our line better.”
Joonas Donskoi scored for the Sharks, who allowed five goals for the third time this season. They gave up a total of six during their winning streak.
“We didn’t do anything well,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you play an elite team, you’ve got to bring your A game and we didn’t do that across the board.”
Donskoi scored 25 seconds into the game as the Sharks peppered Andrei Vasilevskiy with a myriad of shots before Donskoi found a hole.
“Yeah, good start,” San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “Then they scored five goals. That’s not what we wanted. If you miss assignments and leave them alone, they’ll bury them.”
Vasilevskiy was a wall the rest of the way, stopping 32 shots on the night.
Sharks starter Martin Jones allowed four goals on 21 shots and was pulled after two periods. Aaron Dell stopped eight of nine shots in the third.
“Our game tailed off,” San Jose’s Logan Couture said. “We turned pucks over, didn’t forecheck and they felt comfortable. They had the puck all night. They’re so talented, all four lines, and fast.”
Dotchin joined Tampa Bay’s scoring frenzy midway through the first after taking a pass from Brayden Point. One of the NHL’s top offensive teams, the Lightning added three goals in the second period against one of the best defensive teams in the league.
“That was our best period all year,” Stamkos said.
NOTES: Sharks C Joe Pavelski’s next goal will be his 300th. … Vlasic returned to the ice after missing a game due to a blow to the head. … Sharks forward Jannik Hansen was in the lineup after sitting out the previous six games. … Kucherov has at least one goal and one assist in five of his past eight games. … Point has nine points in his last eight games. … Stamkos had his ninth multi-point game of the season.
Lightning: Continue their road trip at Los Angeles on Thursday.
Sharks: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
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