SAN JOSE – There was a fair smattering of boos when Raffi Torres was introduced as one of the starters in the Sharks’ afternoon tilt with Dallas on Sunday at HP Pavilion.
They were all cheers, though, when his name was called twice more over the public address system when the newcomer recorded the primary assist on both of the Sharks’ second period goals.
The Sharks went on to lose in a shootout to Dallas, 5-4, but Torres, TJ Galiardi and Joe Pavelski were the most effective line of the afternoon, according to head coach Todd McLellan. Despite the loss, it was a successful debut for the man that many Sharks fans had grown to hate over recent years.
“I felt good,” said Torres, who was scratched on Friday after he was not feeling well the night before. “I had a good night last night and slept well, and I was excited. I didn’t have to think about it too much today with the early game.”
McLellan said: “He was involved on the score sheet positively. Physical on the ice, people knew when he was out there. A real good start for him.”
Torres' aggressive forecheck of Eric Nystrom led to Galiardi’s fancy spinning backhander in the second period, giving the Sharks a 3-2 lead. San Jose increased it to 4-2 when Torres got his point shot on net, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic tucked the rebound inside the post for a wraparound goal. The lead wouldn't last.
In 13 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time, all at even strength, Torres had one shot, was a +2 and had a game-high seven hits to go along with his pair of assists. It was his fifth multiple-point game of the season, and second straight two-assist performance, with the previous coming on April 2 in his last game with Phoenix.
“It’s just getting pucks to the net and creating turnovers,” he said. “That’s where I can be effective.”
Joe Pavelski said: “He had a lot of energy out there. He was throwing his weight around, got a few pucks to the net. He was simple to play with, [skated in] straight lines, and it’s big for our team. He brings some speed, and he can play.”
Galiardi’s goal will probably be featured on some NHL highlight reels in the coming days, but it wouldn’t have happened without Torres’ help. Like Pavelski, Galiardi gave the impression that he enjoyed being Torres' linemate.
“He’s great, he just moves the puck quick, and he’s a give-and-go player,” Galiardi said. “I think we could have connected a couple more times. It was a pleasure, and he’s pretty tough, so you don’t really worry about other guys on the other team too much.”
And the goal?
“Raffi did most of the work and the puck was sitting there for me, and I just figured I’d spin and fire and put it on net,” Galiardi said. “Luckily, it went in.”
Even before he got on the scoresheet, though, the crowd started to warm to Torres during a shift midway though the first period. He blitzed into the Stars’ zone and hit Erik Cole, and then got under the skin of defenseman Brenden Dillon. Dillon’s cross-check of Torres into the boards gave the Sharks a power play they were unable to capitalize on.
“I’m not much of a talker, it’s just finishing my hits and some guys don’t like it too well out there,” Torres said. “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
“I thought he played an excellent game for us tonight,” Joe Thornton said.