SAP CENTER — Before opening the 2013-2014 regular season, the San Jose Sharks had defeated the Vancouver Canucks in nine straight meetings, including pre-and-post season play.
Evidently, they felt 10 was a better number.
Despite a slow start and an ineffective power play, Team Teal emerged victorious on opening night with a come-from-behind 4-1 win over the Canucks.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the win:
“Some of the things we worked on throughout training camp were evident throughout the game, so that’s a good sign. I thought there was some cohesion with the lines, which was good as well.”
Vancouver struck first on a power play in the opening stanza. With Brent Burns in the box for slashing, Canuck Jason Garrison lined the puck past Antti Niemi’s outstretched glove. Logan Couture sprawled on his stomach to help stop the shot, to no avail.
San Jose had great looks but couldn’t get on the board in the first period. Despite outshooting the Canucks 16-7, the Sharks couldn’t solve goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Captain Joe Thornton talked about the frustration that built up after that first period:
“He played great in the first. We had a number of point blank shots… He played solid. So we had to keep shooting the puck until eventually we just got to him.”
Team Teal turned up the pressure in the second 20 minutes of play. Burns made up for two penalties in the first by putting San Jose on the board at 5:53 in the second period. Rookie Tomas Hertl fed the puck to Burns, whose wrist shot soared high into the net to tie the game up 1-1. Joe Thornton tallied an assist on Burns’ goal.
Thornton commented post game that the coaches had been on Burns to shoot the puck. When asked about it, Burns laughed:
“I’ve been taking a lot of heat from the coaches about shooting. But nobody else was out there so I was shooting!”
It was also Hertl’s first NHL career point. Thornton complimented the early season he has with Burns and his new 19-year-old line mate:
“We’re three big bodies. We all protect the puck real well. Real speed. … We just feel comfortable out there together.”
Vancouver got into serious trouble in the latter part of the second period racking up eight penalty minutes, but the Sharks were unable to capitalize in 17 minutes of play. McLellan talked about the need to improve the power play:
“We were (given) a number of chances but we didn’t score. I thought we lost a little momentum because of it. So that has to get spruced up.”
With 1:52 left in the period, with the puck in Vancouver territory, a shot from the right point from Justin Braun — his first NHL goal since Feb. 10, 2012 — put the Sharks up 2-1.
Neither team made much noise for the better part of the third period, but a big save by Niemi on a shot by Chris Higgins that kept Vancouver from tying up the game turned the momentum around in favor of San Jose.
Patrick Marleau got the puck from Couture and scooted it in to widen the lead to 3-1. Then with less than two minutes left to play in the game, Tommy Wingels converted a pass from Andrew Desjardins, and despite being checked from behind while trying to put the puck in the net, achieved the goal and gave the Sharks their 4-1 victory.
The Sharks will be back at it Saturday, hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
With Thursday’s victory, the Sharks have now won four straight home openers. They are 5-1 in home openers with Todd McLellan as head coach. … Justin Braun had his first career game-winning goal… Tomas Hertl’s assist on Brent Burns’s goal was his first career NHL point. Hertl and Matt Nieto are the first players to play for the Sharks that are younger than the franchise (h/t Kevin Kurz, CSN Bay Area). … Tommy Wingels tallied a team-high five hits and five shots.