The San Jose Sharks were all smiles Thursday morning when they learned that forward Brent Burns would return after missing the last 13 games with an injury. While the whole offense flourished from Burns’ first game back, it was second-year man Tommy Wingels who benefited the most.
Playing in his 14th career game, Wingels recorded his first career two-goal game and was the most impressive player in the Sharks’ 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lighting. He played on the first line alongside Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau and performed up to their level. He was great on the forecheck, and hustled every minute he was on the ice.
Whether this is a direct result from Burns being back in the lineup, we don’t know for sure, but the Sharks are welcoming back Burns with open arms. They endured a five-game losing streak during his absence, four of which went to overtime. Burns’ added pressure and energy are an appreciated push to San Jose’s offense.
The Sharks hosted the Lighting, the second-place team in the Eastern Conference, and outplayed them in every facet of the hockey game. Arguably the most admirable performance tonight came from goalie Antti Niemi. He did not allow a goal until 7:39 into the third period, sending away 34 shots in all. Niemi has now allowed just a single goal in each of his last three games.
With Burns back in the lineup and Niemi playing like he did to begin the season, San Jose seems to be back on track. They’re starting to play like the team that can be. They gave up 21 goals over their five-game losing streak from Oct. 30 to Nov. 10. San Jose have to expect it won’t be playing that poorly again this season.