CALGARY – Patrick Marleau looked to be in mid-season form as the San Jose Sharks opened their lockout-shortened 2013 campaign Sunday.
The Sharks centre scored twice in the second period as San Jose defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1.
The 33-year-old from Aneroid, Sask., has scored 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons and has six overall in his career.
“You don’t normally get your first goal in January,” Marleau said. “It was great to be back, even though it was their home opener. Just to be in the rink and have fans cheering was something special.”
Martin Havlat and defenceman Dan Boyle also scored for the Sharks, who spoiled the debut of new Flames coach Bob Hartley. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski each chipped in with a pair of assists for San Jose.
Antti Niemi made 31 saves to get the win. Calgary counterpart Miikka Kiprusoff, playing in his 600th career game, made 25 saves. Lee Stempniak’s power-play goal in the first period was all the offence the home side could muster.
The Flames outplayed San Jose in the opening period with a 16-9 edge in shots, a couple of chances that rang off the post and a Mikael Backlund breakaway foiled by Niemi.
San Jose recovered to outshoot the Flames 14-4 in the second period and took advantage of loose defence around Kiprusoff to score three times from close range.
“That first period was a little bit of a shock, but after that the guys fell into it and you get into a rhythm,” Marleau said. “It’s going to be a learning curve, a little bit of rust for all teams.
“You try and get those points as quick as possible, especially with a shortened season.”
The Flames were greeted warmly at Scotiabank Saddledome. Attendance was not announced, but a Flames spokesman said it was a sellout at 19,289. There were a few pairs of empty seats, however, and the odd string of three and four vacant.
One glaring indicator of fan discontent was a sign in the lower bowl that read “We were held hostage by greed”, but the sign disappeared after one period.
As other NHL teams have done at home-openers to soothe the feelings of jaded fans post-lockout, the Flames deeply discounted food, drink and merchandise Sunday. The Saddledome stores were doing a brisk business 90 minutes prior to the game.
The Flames also guaranteed a minimum $50,000 payout to the winner of the 50-50 draw Sunday and for Monday’s game versus the Anaheim Ducks.
Calgary did not apologize for the lockout as some teams did, but instead expressed appreciation for their fans’ loyalty prior to the game.
The Flames pressed in the third period with 12 shots to San Jose’s six, but Niemi held off Calgary’s charge.
With Calgary’s Curtis Glencross and Sven Baertschi serving coincidental minors late in the third period, Boyle scored a power-play goal on a two-man advantage with a minute remaining.
“We had everything in place for a great game but the bottom line, we played 40 minutes,” Hartley said. “We have to show more consistency.”
San Jose scored two power-play goals on six chances, while Calgary went 1-for-3.
“We weren’t our best, put it that way,” Thornton said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do and we realize that, but starting on the road and getting the first win was huge.”
The Sharks captain said the previous day, when most NHL teams were in action, felt like the eve of the post-season because he and his teammates were anxious to play.
“Everybody is kind of relieved it’s back and hockey’s back,” Thornton said. “Last night, it kind of felt like playoffs were going to start because everyone was kind of gathered around watching hockey, which is a little bit strange.”
The Flames were without off-season acquisitions Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka on Sunday. Hudler attended his father’s funeral in the Czech Republic on Friday and Hartley did not know when the forward would return.
Cervenka, another Czech forward, has yet to be cleared to play because of anti-coagulant medication he took following the discovery of blood clots.
Sharks defenceman Brent Burns was out of the Sharks lineup with a “lower-body injury.” Forward Scott Gomez, recently bought out of his contract by the Montreal Canadiens, skated with the Sharks during their optional pre-game skate Sunday.
Notes: Pavelski extended his streak of two points in San Jose season-openers to four straight years. … Calgary hosts the Ducks on Monday before heading to Vancouver on Wednesday for three games in four nights to start the lockout-shortened season. … San Jose is in Edmonton on Tuesday to face the Oilers. The Sharks don’t play their home-opener until Thursday against Phoenix.