Sharks hardly perfect in Jets shutout

SAP CENTER — The last time Sharks fans watched a meaningful home game, they left with the taste of crushing defeat of historic proportions.

In San Jose’s regular season home opener Saturday night, they relished the bittersweet flavor of victory in the form of a 3-0 shutout win over the Winnipeg Jets.

The Sharks roared out of the gate. Just 3:22 into the first period, a Marc-Edouard Vlasic wrist shot found its way into the back of the net through a sea of bodies in front. for the game’s first goal.

Less than two minutes later, Tomas Hertl took a pass from Joe Thornton, burst in between defenders on the rush and beat Ondrej Pavelec (L, 23-26 saves, 2.50 GAA),  for a 2-0 San Jose lead.

Said Hertl on the goal, his first of the year:

“I like breakaways. It was a good pass from Jumbo and I am very happy it is my first goal of the season.”

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

The goal of the night came courtesy of Patrick Marleau as the second period wound down. After a nifty lofted pass from Matt Nieto landed perfectly on Marleau’s stick, the Sharks’ No. 12 sped in alone on Pavelec and finished with a breakaway goal.

San Jose outshot Winnipeg 15-3 in the first period, but the Jets got more opportunities against a stagnant Sharks defense, leading the Sharks in shots 30-26 by game’s end.

One big concern was the Sharks power play: San Jose had eight power plays — including a 5-on-3 in the third period — but could not convert at all on the man-advantage.

This certainly has head coach Todd McLellan concerned, and he was very candid about it afterwards:

“I thought our power play absolutely sucked the life out of our team today. It is as weak as it’s been in a long, long time and we’ve got some work to do.”

Despite the shutout, McLellan stressed this was not the performance he was looking for from this team:

“I thought early in the game, it was all about style points. We weren’t prepared to do anything and when we got really frustrated, we couldn’t overcome their attack. We are a work in progress.”

The Sharks spent almost 16 minutes on the power play — nearly an entire period — without a goal. Marleau on the power play struggles:

“We weren’t executing our passes and our power plays. We just tried to do a little bit too much, too fancy at times. You know the ice gets a little drippy towards the end of the period so we have to realize that and try to get pucks in deep and we weren’t doing that.”

Jets’ defenseman Dustin Byfuglien had a hand in all three power plays. After already being sent to the box twice beforehand, Byfuglien was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct when he gave Sharks’ goaltender Alex Stalock (W, 30-30 saves, 0.00 GAA) a snow shower midway through the third period.

Byfuglien was issued another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a 10-minute misconduct after he slammed his stick against the penalty box.

Still, though, the Sharks could not muster a shot, let alone a goal, on the ensuing four-minute power play. They didn’t have to, as a Sharks goaltender kept the opponent scoreless for the second game in a row.

Stalock, who got the start in net despite Antti Niemi pitching a shutout in the opener against the Kings, stopped all 30 shots he faced. He didn’t face much sustained pressure, but was able to hold down the fort.

Said Stalock:

“It was a tough game to battle through some of their big guys in the paint, but our defense did a good job.”

McLellan wanted to get both Niemi and Stalock playing time early, and thus far, the strategy has been effective, as both have recorded shutouts in their first game.

The last time the Sharks had two goaltenders sharing the action equally was back in 2010, when Niemi eventually beat out Antero Niittymaki for the No. 1 job.

Notes

This is the first time the Sharks have began a season with back-to-back shutouts…Scratched tonight for the Sharks tonight were forward John Scott and defenseman Matt Irwin. … Forward Eriah Hayes was reassigned to Worcester before the game. … The Sharks were outshot 14-0 in the third period. … Marleau has 21 points in 17 games against Winnipeg/Atlanta/ … For all the offseason controversy over the Sharks’ new ice team that included women, little attention was paid by the fans when they came out to sweep the ice. … The Sharks improved to 12-2-2 all-time against the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise.