SAN JOSE – On most nights during the 2013 season, the Sharks going 0-for-7 on the power play would have spelled certain doom.
Against the Canucks on Thursday night in their 2013-14 season opener, it didn’t mean hardly a thing. Thanks to four even strength goals, spread out among three forward lines and a defenseman, the Sharks were able to overcome Vancouver, 4-1, and get off on the right foot in a campaign that has high expectations.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks open season with 4-1 win]
Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels were the goal scorers in the win, the team’s fourth straight in a season opener.
Burns got it started with a perfectly placed wrist shot over Roberto Luongo’s shoulder at 5:53 of the second period, after Tomas Hertl got him the puck. It put the home team on the board after Luongo’s stellar first resulted in a 1-0 Vancouver lead at the break. The goal helped make up for two penalties Burns took in the first, including a bad slash that resulted in a Jason Garrison goal.
“I've been taking a lot of heat from the coaches about shooting,” Burns said. “I didn't know anybody else was out there. I was just shooting."
Todd McLellan said: “He probably has one of the best shots I’ve seen. I had the opportunity to play with [330-goal scorer] Wendel Clark when I was playing junior. The release that Burnsie has, and the power and the impact of the puck is pretty close to that so he should be using that shot, especially playing with those guys.”
The Sharks had a golden opportunity to break a 1-1 tie later in the second, when Ryan Kesler and Garrison took minors for goalie interference and tripping, respectively. San Jose’s top power play unit wasn’t able to convert, though, and the score remained knotted.
It could have been a deflating blow, but the Sharks kept their composure and grabbed their first lead of the game on Justin Braun’s floater from the point that had eyes (or possibly deflected) at 18:07 of the second.
“We’re a veteran group, so we got over it,” Couture said of the failed two minute, two-man advantage. “Obviously, our power play needs to get a lot better moving forward, but I thought we played a pretty good game for the first game of the year.”
Couture was the only Sharks player to finish with two points, assisting on Braun’s goal and then making what was arguably the best play of the night late in the third. The Sharks’ center stripped Chris Higgins of the puck in San Jose’s offensive zone, and found Patrick Marleau for a huge insurance goal with 5:21 left in regulation.
If you thought the play looked Thornton-esque, you may be on to something.
“Before I got to the puck I looked over my left shoulder, like Jumbo does. I picked that up from him,” Couture said. “I spun and fired, Patty gave me a yell, and I was able to find his tape. He made a great shot.”
Tommy Wingels put the game away when he and Andrew Desjardins rushed up the ice shortly after Marleau’s marker. Nine Sharks in all had at least one point in the win.
“Everybody found a way to contribute,” McLellan said.
Thornton said: “The power play was our strength all year and it’s going to be a strength this year. But our five-on-five play looked really solid tonight.”