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Wild opener ends in OT
1 down, 81 to go
10/5/06 - by Mike Lee

If the other 81 regular season games are anything like the Sharks opener on Thursday night, be prepared to make several appointments with a hair restoration specialist. San Jose's first game of the season was anything but typical, aside from the Sharks picking up where they left off last year in the win column. The visiting St. Louis Blues did everything in their power to spoil San Jose opening night, but the Sharks pulled out an overtime win.

Curtis Brown, making his return to the Sharks lineup after a stint in Chicago last season, capped the game with a put-back shot after Matt Carle bounced an attempt off Blues goaltender Manny Legace 2:12 into the extra frame.

Brown's overtime ending came on the heels of a 20 minute delay to fix a hole in the boards after Jonathan Cheechoo plowed into them skates first, another delay after referee Rob Martell was knocked out of the game with a puck to the face, and 8 other goals.

"That was one of the longer games I've ever been a part of," Brown said. "I don't think there's anything else they can throw at us this season. That's one of the things, though. You're going to have all kinds of distractions, and you've got to overcome them."

The Sharks looked poised to win in regulation after newcomer Mark Bell put San Jose up 4-3 with just over five minutes remaining in the 3rd period, but St. Louis knotted the game on a Bill Guerin deflection with 5.6 seconds remaining. Keith Tkachuk threw the puck at the net after a wild scramble in San Jose's zone, just catching the shaft of Guerin's stick. The redirected puck fooled Vesa Toskala and served as an immediate buzz-kill in the sold out HP Pavilion.

The start of the 2006-07 season didn't quite start out as planned for San Jose as well. St Louis took a 2-1 lead into the locker room at the 1st intermission after Dan Hinote and Jamal Mayers scored goals in the opening period. Hinote's goal came just 36 into the game.

Rookie defenseman Matt Carle scored his first goal of the season to match Hinote's score 2:39 into the game, but Mayers would answer a minute later. Mark Smith setup Carle with a nifty pass as the Sharks defenseman cut to the Blues net.

San Jose would capitalize on a constant stream of Blues penalties in the 2nd period, grabbing the lead on a pair of goals by Mila Michalek. The Sharks winger scored almost identical goals on consecutive 5-on-3 power plays. Joe Thornton setup both goals with shots from the right dot, which resulted in fat rebounds for Michalek in the slot.

With Hinote still in the box serving a hooking penalty, Dallas Drake mouthed off to the officials, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which put San Jose right back on a two-man advantage. Michalek converted again from almost the same spot less than a minute after his first tally.

Thornton would finish with three assists on the night.

"They have a great power play, and Joe is the best player on the planet right now," Guerin said. "He can put on a clinic out there, if you give him a chance."

Lee Stempniak tied the game at 3-3 with his first of the year at 13:48 of the period, and both teams would head into the 2nd intermission tied.

Both teams had their chances to take the lead in the 3rd period, but a timely turnover allowed the Sharks top line to demonstrate just how deadly they can be with open ice. After Blues left wing Martin Ruckinsky turned over the puck at the St Louis Blueline, Thornton moved into the zone with a single defender to beat. The newly ordained assistant captain slid the puck over to Cheechoo on the right wing, drawing Legace over to cover the right side of the net. Cheechoo sent a bullet pass to Bell on the off wing, for an easy conversion into a wide open net.

"That's the wrong line to give it up to," Legace said.

In addition to Bell, San Jose welcomed several new faces to the lineup, including veteran right wing Mike Grier and rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlassic. Vlassic saw time on a 5-on-3 penalty kill, which drew hearty applause after the Sharks snuffed out the threat.

"I'm happy for the newer guys who contributed a lot," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "That kind of welcomes them into the Shark family."


Steve Bernier had a strong game, forcing the issue on two occasions with strong moves to the goal from behind the net. Bernier is patenting one-handed stick-handling move with a defender draped all over him. He would finish with two assists.

Jonathan Cheechoo also had two assists, but his biggest contribution came in the form of a hole in the boards, caused a twenty-minute delay. Fans started to do the wave while they waited for building maintenance to fix the hole.

The Sharks were only called for three penalties, which is a welcome sign this early in the season.

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1 2 3OT T
STL 2 1 10 4
SJ 1 2 11 5
1st period - 1, St. Louis, Hinote 1 (Mayers, Drake), 0:36. 2, San Jose, Carle 1 (Smith, Goc), 2:39. 3, St. Louis, Mayers 1 (Hinote), 3:42.
2nd period - 4, San Jose, Michalek 1 (Thornton, Cheechoo), 6:11, (pp). 5, San Jose, Michalek 2 (Thornton, Bernier), 6:57, (pp). 6, St. Louis, Stempniak 1 (Guerin, Brewer), 13:48.
3rd period - 7, San Jose, Bell 1 (Cheechoo, Thornton), 14:18. 8, St. Louis, Guerin 1 (Tkachuk, Rucinsky), 19:54.
Overtime - 9, San Jose, Brown 1 (Carle, Bernier), 2:12.
1st period - Jackman, STL (hooking), 8:37; Cajanek, STL (cross-checking), 16:25.
2nd period - Bench, STL (served by Stempniak (too many men)), 4:31; Hinote, STL (hooking), 5:10; Drake, STL (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:11; Hannan, SJS (holding), 10:57; McClement, STL (interference), 15:23; Smith, SJS (hooking), 17:33; McLaren, SJS (cross-checking), 17:47.
3rd period - Salvador, STL (holding), 4:00; Wideman, STL (hooking), 6:14.
Overtime - None.
  Shots Saves
STL - Legace 35 30
SJ - Toskala 35 31
Shots On Goal
1 2 3OT T
STL 10 14 110 35
SJ 15 9 83 35
Power Play Conversion
STL 0 of 3
SJ 2 of 8
3 Stars of the Game
Milan Michalek
Joe Thornton
Curtis Brown
Referees: Mike Leggo, Rob Martell. Linesmen: Mike Cvik, Don Henderson.

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