SFBay Photos by
Scot Tucker and Aris Bernales
SAP CENTER — Admit it: If I had told you a year ago Sharks fans would be cheering Raffi Torres after he got up from a nasty mid-ice collision, you would have laughed at me.
Friday night’s crowd of 15,760 was in full support of the left winger — now of course a Shark — after Torres was knocked out of the game in the second period of San Jose’s home exhibition opener with the Anaheim Ducks.
The clock-stopping hit, which took both Torres and Anaheim’s Emerson Etem out of the game, was certainly a highlight as the newly-sweatered Sharks fell to their SoCal opponent 3-2 in OT.
It was one of the team’s “rustier” performances. Head Coach Todd McLellan explained:
“I thought that our team forgot, a little bit, how hard it was to play… (Anaheim) had played three or four games, some of those players had a game under their belt… We got soft in the second period… But it’s part of the process of getting through the summer hockey and into the real hockey.”
Outside of San Jose’s 6-foot-7 defenseman prospect Taylor Doherty — who had three hits and seven penalty minutes total in the first 20 minutes of play — and Anaheim’s John Kurtz dropping their gloves at 2:19, the opening period opened quietly.
2012 Sharks first-round pick Tomas Hertl got a chance against Anaheim goalie Viktor Fasth at 14:42 when Adam Comrie’s writ shot missed and hit the backboards. Hertl got the rebound in the blue paint and pushed the puck in for his first goal of the preseason, putting the Sharks on top 1-0.
McLellan commented on Hertl’s play:
“I thought he did a lot of good things in the game … The more he plays, the more it looks like he fits in well.”
The Ducks tied the game up at 2:48 in the second period when Devante Smith-Pelly fed the puck to Etem for a tap in that eluded Niemi.
The play clock stopped at 13:26 when a collision in Sharks territory leveled Torres and sent Etem whirling on his side like a pinwheel.
After both took a minute to get up, Torres slowly skated on his own into the Sharks locker room. Etem, on the other hand, had to be assisted off the ice.
After the game, McLellan still didn’t know the status of Torres’ injury:
“Obviously, not a good situation for either player, Etem or Torres. And a complete accident too. We hope they’ll both be well and ready to play.”
After play resumed, Sharks winger Matt Pelech drew a penalty. But the Sharks grabbed possession of the puck on the Ducks power play, and Patrick Marleau fed the puck to newcomer Tyler Kennedy for the shorthanded goal.
The 2-1 lead didn’t last through the period. Anaheim’s Corey Perry made a shot from the top of the circle to tie the game back up 2-2 with less than four minutes left in the second. Teams skated into the second intermission shots tilted heavily toward Anaheim, 24-14.
Anaheim almost took the lead with four seconds left in regulation. But Niemi’s speedy glove save kept Perry from scoring and took the game into four-on-four overtime.
Less than three minutes into extra time, Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy skated up close and shot the puck past Niemi who had slid into the splits to make the save. But the puck trickled in, giving the visiting Ducks the 3-2 victory.
When asked about the late-game loss, Dan Boyle simply shrugged and said:
“It was what it was. It was a preseason game. … It was a little rusty, but we’ll work on it and get better.”
The Sharks take the ice at the SAP Center for another pre-season matchup Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Sharks are now 1-0-1 in preseason action. Their penalty kill is now a perfect 100 percent (8-for-8) this preseason… Tyler Kennedy and Tomas Hertl had their first goals in Sharks uniforms. Kennedy’s shorthanded goal was the first for the Sharks this preseason… Hertl now has two points (one goal, one assist) in two preseason games… Hertl, Matt Pelech and Matt Irwin are the only Sharks players to play in both preseason games… Antti Niemi made 29 saves in Friday’s game… The Sharks wore their brand-new “Next Wave” teal sweaters for the first time Friday night.