ANAHEIM, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks had little trouble getting on track against the Anaheim Ducks this time.
With Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton each scoring first period goals, Dany Heatley adding two assists and Evgeni Nabokov making 24 saves the Sharks quickly spoiled the Ducks season opener with a dominating 4-1 victory on Saturday night. Rookie Benn Ferriero and Devin Setoguchi also scored for the Sharks.
Ryan Whitney ended Nabokov’s hopes for his 47th career shutout with a goal midway through the third period, but other than that miscue the Sharks were in control.
Skating after a 5-2 opening night loss at Colorado Thursday, San Jose responded with a strong effort against the Ducks, who eliminated the President Trophy winning Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs last spring.
“I think tonight we just moved our feet and wanted it more,” said Thornton.”We don’t like them, they don’t like us, the rivalry is part of it.”
The playoff loss to the Ducks, the latest of many post-season tanks by the Sharks, led to some rethinking and roster tinkering in the Bay Area, including a September trade that brought Heatley to San Jose from Ottawa.
The former 50-goal scorer finished minus-3 in his Sharks debut at Colorado. His biggest impact against the Ducks Saturday actually began after being whistled for tripping Anaheim defenceman Luca Sbisa with 3:47 left in the first period.
On the ensuing Ducks power play, Marleau blocked a point-shot by Whitney and outraced the Anaheim defender for the puck at centre before sweeping a backhand shot past goalie Jonas Hiller for his third goal of the season.
“Any time you’re in the box and your team scores short-handed, it’s a relief, Patty’s played great for us, that was a huge goal,” said Heatley who quickly showcased his emerging chemistry with Thornton.
Seconds after exiting the penalty box, Heatley jumped into a 2-on-1 rush with Thornton, feathering a return pass to the skilled centre who also swept a low backhand shot past Hiller for a sudden 3-0 Sharks advantage.
“They played a simple, solid game and made us pay for the mistakes we made,” said Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer.”We probably didn’t respond as well as we could have when that happened.”
Early in the second, Heatley and Thornton set up Setoguchi for a power play goal and the Sharks were well in control, outshooting Anaheim 17-2 in the period.
“It’s going to take a little time to gell as a line, we had a couple pre-season games where we were on a roll a little bit,” said Heatley.”I thought we skated well. For us to do well, that’s the key. All three of us have to move our feet and skate.”
San Jose coach Todd McLellan agreed.
“They skated much better, they had speed through the puck tonight, whereas in Colorado they didn’t and they looked slow,” said McLellan.
It was the Ducks turn to look slow Saturday.
“They played the game at a higher pace then we were playing it at,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.
The Pacific Division rivals combined for two fighting majors and four minor penalties in the opening five minutes before Ferriero scored his first NHL goal, whisking a back-hand rebound past Hiller during a delayed penalty call 7:30 into the game.
Ferriero played at Boston College last season. After signing a two-year contract with San Jose in August he secured a job with the Sharks by tying for the team lead with eight points (three goals, five assists) in the pre-season.
Fellow rookies Jason Demers and Frazer McLaren assisted on Ferriero’s goal, also earning their first NHL points.
“It was pretty cool to get the first one under your belt and even better to get the team off to a good start,” said Ferriero. “It’s also pretty cool that three rookies could get their first points all on the same goal.”
NOTES: Ducks centre Petteri Nokelainen was sidelined with a groin injury. … Anaheim is now 7-8-1 all-time in home openers. … According to Elias Sports, the last time three rookies combined for the their first NHL points on a goal was on October 4, 2007 when Phoenix forwards Daniel Winnick, Martin Hanzal and Craig Weller scored against St. Louis.