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Sharks take season opener
Niemi and Marleau lead the way
1/20/13 - By Mike Lee -

It took eight months to get the show on the road, but the Sharks 2012-13 season finally kicked off on Sunday afternoon. After struggling through a sluggish opening 20 minutes, the Sharks kicked things into gear and steam-rolled the host Calgary Flames in a 4-1 win at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Alberta. Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals to help the Sharks overcome an early deficit start the season on the right foot.

San Jose has 47 more games to deal with the criticism that has haunted them since their opening-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. A number of national pundits believe the window is quickly closing on the Sharks chances of contending for a Stanley Cup as their core hits the wrong side of 30.

The opening 20 minutes of Sunday's season opener were an eerie reminder of that Blues series, as San Jose was outplayed in every aspect of the game. If not for Antti Niemi's 15 saves in the opening frame, the Sharks could have faced a tougher hill to climb, than the 1-0 deficit they carried into the 1st intermission.

Calgary had nine scoring chances in the 1st period, out-skating San Jose to every puck, and dictating things early. San Jose's biggest hole reared its ugly head 12:21 into the contest after Martin Havlat was sent off for a suspect goaltender interference penalty. That hole being the penalty kill, to which the Sharks had 7 days to address during their abridged training camp.

Needless to say, the Sharks need to spend more than a week to shore up their special teams Achilles heel. Lee Stempniak converted on Havlat's penalty by ripping a shot from the right dot after Jay Boumeester slid a pass back toward the blueline from the bottom of the circle.

Niemi stood on his head the rest of the period, keeping the Sharks in the game. Had it not been for the San Jose netminder, the Sharks could have dug a much deeper hole for themselves. Flames forward Steve Begin just missed on a breakaway chance with 6 minutes left in the period, flipping a shot that caught the crossbar to keep the Flames lead at a single goal.

The Sharks found their misplaced game during the intermission and turned the contest upside down with a three-goal outburst.

Marleau scored the Sharks first goal of the season at 13:52 of the period after Flames defenseman Chris Butler was sent off for roughing. Joe Thornton did the dirty work to setup the goal by picking Mark Giordano's pocked behind the Flames net as the defenseman tried to fire the puck around the end boards. Thornton stabbed at the puck as Giordano was following through on the clearing attempt, gaining control in the same motion, then slipping it out to the front of the net. Marleau gathered it in the slot and put a back-hand shot past Miikka Kiprusoff to knot the game at 1-1.

Havlat atoned for this penalty by bagging his first goal of the season 73 seconds later. The Sharks forward jammed home a deflection from the right post, after Marc-Edouard Vlasic put the puck on net with a point shot from the blueline. Havlat slipped behind Kiprusoff, who had slid out to play the angle on Vlasic.

If Havlat's goal didn't silence the capacity crowd, Marleau's second tally did. San Jose continued to send bodies to the net and it paid big dividends. Marleau was parked near the left post when Dan Boyle put a puck on net from the right point. Kiprusoff made a pad save on Boyle's shot, but could only watch Marleau gather the rebound and slide a 5-foot shot into the wide open net.

Calgary tried to make a go of things in the 3rd period, outshooting San Jose 12-6 in the period, but Niemi rejected everything that came his way. The Flames seemed destined to cut into the Sharks lead during a precarious stretch midway through the frame, but Niemi shut the door.

Curtis Glencross and Sven Baertschi took penalties simultaneously late in the game to give the Sharks a 5-on-3 with 84 seconds to play.

Boyle used a screen in front of Kiprusoff to cap the game's scoring 24 seconds later. Boyle dragged the puck across the high slot, before snapping a 35-foot shot that beat Kiprusoff to the low glove side.

Two players made their Sharks debut, including rookie Matt Irwin, who appeared in his first NHL game. Irwin impressed with a solid game. The defenseman logged 19:06 of ice time on 29 shifts, and was a +1 on the night.

Adam Burish also made his debut for San Jose, skating on 16 shifts. He took a roughing penalty early in the 2nd period after mixing it up with Jerome Iginla after the whistle. Iginla got the last laugh on the play, after initiating the rough-housing with a couple of shots to Burish's chops.

Defenseman Brad Stuart made his return to the Sharks franchise, turning in a solid night on a line with Vlasic. Like nine of his teammates, Stuart was a +1 on the night, earning his positive rating while on the ice during Havlat's goal.

Niemi finished the evening with 31 saves to earn his 97th career victory.

Notes:

Former Montreal Canadien, New Jersey Devil and New York Ranger centerman Scott Gomez skated with the Sharks at the morning skate after passing a physical with the team a day earlier. Gomez has not signed a contract with San Jose, but the two parties are evaluating each other. If Gomez were to sign with the Sharks, Michal Handzus ice time would most likely take a hit.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 3 1 4
CGY 1 0 0 1
1st period - 1, CGY, Stempniak 1 (Boumeester, Backlund), 12:21, (pp).
2nd period - 2, SJ, Marleau 1 (Thornton, Couture), 13:52, (pp). 3, SJ, Havlat 1 (Vlasic, Clowe), 15:05. 4, SJ, Marleau 2 (Boyle, Pavelski), 18:10.
3rd period - 5, SJ, Boyle 1 (Thornton, Pavelski), 19:00, (pp).
Penalties
1st period - Havlat, SJ (goaltender interference), 10:56; Boumeester, CGY (hooking), 12:38.
2nd period - Burish, SJ (roughing), 5:35; Baetschi, CGY (tripping), 6:33; Butler, CGY (roughing), 13:45.
3rd period - Havlat, SJ (high sticking), 1:52; Stajan, CGY (hooking), 16:13; Glencross, CGY (tripping), 18:36; Baertschi, CGY (holding), 18:36.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 32 31
CGY - Kiprusoff 29 25
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 9 14 6 29
CGY 16 4 12 32
Power Play Conversion
SJ 2 of 6
CGY 1 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Patrick Marleau
Lee Stempniak
Antti Niemi
Attendence
19,289
Officials
Referees: St Pierre, Leggo. Linesmen: Wheler, Sericolo.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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