SAN JOSE, Calif. – All four lines scored goals, the power play clicked and the newcomers all made contributions. All in all, it was a pretty productive season opener for the San Jose Sharks.
Joe Pavelski and Andrew Desjardins scored two goals apiece and the new-look Sharks used their highest scoring season opener ever to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3 on Saturday night.
“Everybody played well, everybody skated well,” captain Joe Thornton said. “Once we got the first couple of goals early we sensed they were kind of deflated. The lines worked out well. Everyone is still learning each other so we can still get better. But it was a good game.”
Newcomer Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe also scored and Patrick Marleau had two assists for the Sharks, who jumped on the Coyotes from the start and finished with 52 shots on goal.
The big offensive night spoiled Mike Smith’s debut as Phoenix goalie. Acquired in the off-season to help replace Ilya Bryzgalov, Smith allowed six goals in the first two periods.
Shane Doan scored two power-play goals and Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored on the man advantage for the Coyotes, who had won their last five season openers.
“It was embarrassing,” Doan said. “That’s the way it is sometimes. It’s tough. It’s not the way you want to start.”
San Jose’s Thomas Greiss made 26 saves in his first NHL start since March 28, 2010. Greiss, who was a backup to Evgeni Nabokov that season, was sent by San Jose on loan to Sweden last season after the team signed Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki as free agents.
Greiss signed again with the Sharks as a free agent this summer and got the chance to start with Niemi recovering from having a cyst removed and Niittymaki rehabbing from hip surgery. He didn’t need to do much to earn this win.
“The team played very well from the get-go so that took the pressure a little bit off me,” Greiss said.
The Sharks scored twice in the opening period and then broke the game open with a four-goal second as they scored three times overall on the power play.
Pavelski got both of his goals on the power play, adapting nicely to his new role down low with the man advantage after playing mostly at the point last year. He tapped in a pass from Marleau in the first and deflected Dan Boyle’s point shot past Smith in the second to make it 5-1.
“As a forward you always like being around the net,” Pavelski said. “There will be some times where I’ll be at the point. It’s just fun being out their and getting that opportunity.”
Pavelski changed roles on the power play and moved to the top line with Thornton and Patrick Marleau after an off-season of moves that included the acquisition of all-star defenceman Brent Burns.
Desjardins, who played just 17 games last season, took advantage of his increased role this year scoring twice in the second period. His first came when he stole the puck in the neutral zone from Lauri Korpikoski and beat Smith for his second career goal. He added another off a bad angle with 1:18 left in the second to make it 6-1.
“We’re working hard, trying to get pucks to the net,” Desjardins said. “That’s basically what happened. I got the puck to the net and luckily it found a little hole there and got in.”
The Sharks started quickly, taking 13 of the game’s first 14 shots and breaking out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. They struck first on the power play 14 seconds after Handzus drew a holding penalty from Taylor Pyatt.
Burns did a good job pinching in from the point to keep possession of the puck and Patrick Marleau fed Pavelski from behind the net for an easy tap-in goal. It was a new spot for Pavelski, who played the point on the power play for most of last season.
Handzus drew another penalty a few minutes later but the Sharks were unable to score on the power play. He got on the scoresheet midway through the period when he beat Smith with a wraparound goal that made it 2-0.
“We made some mistakes early, couldn’t handle their pressure and they came at us full bore,” coach Dave Tippett said. “They just overwhelmed us for the first two periods. That’s something that’s very disappointing in the way our group reacted.”
Notes: There was a moment of silence before the game for Raiders owner Al Davis, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and the victims of a recent shooting in nearby Cupertino. … Phoenix F Michal Rozsival left in the first period after being hit in the face by a shot from Marleau. Rozsival got stitches in his nose and will be re-evaluated Sunday. … One of San Jose’s other big off-season acquisitions, Martin Havlat, missed the opener with a shoulder injury.