The San Jose Sharks defeated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome to start the season off on a high note. Although San Jose started the game on their heels they scored four unanswered goals to end the game and take the 4-1 victory. San Jose benefited from a strong second period and in the end it was the difference. Key in the game was San Jose dominating in the face off circle winning that battle 42-27 and was surprisingly physical throughout the game.
Guys that impressed me throughout the game were rookie Matt Irwin and longtime Shark Patrick Marleau. Irwin looked solid all game long. He was sound defensively, played the third most minutes in the game behind only Vlasic and Boyle, jumped into the play at the right time, and even hit the post as he almost scored his first career goal.
Marleau looked good offensively and impressed me on the power play where he was willing to stand in front of the net and take the punishment. It payed off as he scored one goal off of a rebound and another on a nice feed from Thornton.
Calgary came out of the gate strong and had the Sharks back on their heels from the start of the game. Antti Niemi held strong in net while San Jose committed lots of turnovers in their own zone. Without Niemi the game could have gotten out of hand very quickly. Instead he allowed only one goal on a power play where San Jose looked good up until the goal by Lee Stempniak. A few quick passes around the box led to Lee Stempniak open in the high slot and he went top shelf against Niemi to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. Later on the Sharks got a chance to tie the game with a penalty against Jay Bouwmeester immediately after the goal but couldn’t get anything going. San Jose was dominated all period and it showed with Calgary winning the shot count at 16 to 9.
The Sharks came out of the dressing room much better to start the second period. The officials looked rusty at times as well as they missed a penalty opportunity when Dan Boyle went down with a high stick and drew blood. Instead San Jose was out of luck. About 14 minutes into the period Patrick Marleau showed of his hands with the first goal of the season for the Sharks on the power play after a takeaway by Joe Thornton from behind the net. The goal came after the Sharks had started to swing the tide of play in around halfway through the period as they gained control of the game. Minutes later the Sharks struck again this time on a goal by Martin Havlat off of a wrist shot, and then again a few minutes later Marleau strikes again and off of a rebound and the Sharks take the 3-1 lead into the intermission.
Calgary came out strong again at the beginning of the third period after a second period in which the sharks dominated with 3 unanswered goals. They attacked the net hard and were given an opportunity on the power play to make their way back into the game but were unable to capitalize. In the end San Jose stayed strong on defense and in net with Niemi making the saves when he was called upon. The nail in the coffin came when 2 separate penalties were called against the Flames and San Jose capitalized on the ensuing 5 on 3 with Dan Boyle blasting a shot from the point and Marleau screening in front.
My 3 Stars of the Game
1. Patrick Marleau (2 goals)
2. Anti Niemi (31 saves)
3. Dan Boyle (1 goal, 1 assist)