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Braun's 1st goal in more than 19 months helps lead Sharks past Canucks 4-1 in season opener

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks flipped the script from last season in their opener with their potent power play failing to generate a goal while the even strength play dominated.

One constant remained. They still have Vancouver's number.

Justin Braun scored his first goal in more than 19 months to break a tie late in the second period and the Sharks went on to beat the Canucks 4-1 Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

Despite coming up empty on seven power plays including a rare 2-minute, two-man advantage, the Sharks got all their goals in 5-on-5 play after ranking 28th in the league last season in even-strength scoring.

"We're going to be fine on the power play," captain Joe Thornton said. "I'm not concerned about that at all and I don't think anybody is. It just was nice to get four goals 5-on-5 for a change and let our 5-on-5 game win us the game.

Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels also scored for the Sharks, who have won eight straight against the Canucks including a sweep in the first round of the playoffs last season. Antti Niemi made 21 saves.

Jason Garrison scored a power-play goal and Roberto Luongo made 31 saves for the Canucks, who lost in the debut of new coach John Tortorella.

"We had a couple of breakdowns but it's all a learning curve," centre Ryan Kesler said. "We want to be aggressive. That's who we are. That's our identity. I thought we played hard and played smart."

The Canucks opened this season on the same ice they ended the last one on after the disappointing early playoff exit led to the firing of coach Alain Vigneault.

Tortorella arrived and preached toughness and tighter defensive play and got results on an improved penalty-kill unit. The Canucks allowed seven power-play goals in the four playoff games last season.

But Vancouver still wound up on the short end as San Jose got the better of the even-strength play and did not let the blown 5-on-3 chance tilt the momentum in the second period.

The Sharks got that prime chance when Kesler interfered with Niemi at one end and before the next whistle, Garrison was called for tripping Joe Thornton.

Luongo stopped all three shots on the two-man advantage, including tough saves against Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. But the Sharks still scored twice in the period to erase an early deficit.

"We're a veteran group, so we got over it," Couture said. "Obviously, our power play needs to get a lot better moving forward, but I thought we played a pretty good game for the first game of the year."

The first came when Thornton took the puck from Garrison in the neutral zone. Rookie Tomas Hertl slid a pass to Burns, who beat Luongo with a wrister to tie it at 1 early in the period.

"We made way too many mistakes," Garrison said. "You never want to leave the goalie hanging like that."

Late in the period, Braun's shot from the point got through a screen by Couture for his first goal since Feb. 10, 2012. Braun had gone 85 games, including the playoffs, without a goal.

Niemi made that lead stand up, helping kill two penalties in the third period and making a sharp pad save to rob Chris Higgins midway through the period.

"It was a quick play," Niemi said. "I just tried to cover the passing lane from behind the net and then just saw him shooting so I tried to stop it with the pad. Luckily, I got it."

Marleau and Wingels added insurance goals late in the third.

Luongo was sharp early in his first game back as the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver after the off-season trade of Cory Schneider to New Jersey.

Luongo stopped all 16 shots in the opening period as the Canucks took a 1-0 lead on Garrison's power-play goal after the first of two penalties on Burns.

The Sharks got the better of the play after that, but Luongo made a sharp glove save on Scott Hannan, stopped Joe Pavelski on a short-handed breakaway and turned aside a tip attempt by Couture in the final minute of the period.

"We had a really good start," Tortorella said. "The first 10 minutes we played the way we should. Then after we scored, we turned a couple over and we lost the momentum."

NOTES: D Ryan Stanton, claimed off waivers from Chicago earlier this week, made his Vancouver debut. ... Hertl, 19, and F Matt Nieto, 20, made their NHL debuts, becoming the first two Sharks born after the franchise's first game on Oct. 4, 1991. Hertl got his first career point with an assist on Burns' goal.


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