The new Pacific Division of the National Hockey League is a gauntlet of difficulty, but the San Jose Sharks got off on the right skate Thursday night with a 4-1 win in their 2013-14 season opener against new division rival Vancouver.
Logan Couture notched two assists, and Antti Niemi made 21 saves as the Sharks overcome a 1-0 first-period deficit at the SAP Center on their way to beating the Canucks -- the same team San Jose swept out of the first round of last year's Stanley Cup playoffs and one of the new teams in the realigned Pacific Division.
Jason Garrison scored the first goal of the game for Vancouver, a power-play tally off assists from both Daniel and Henrik Sedin. But the Sharks rallied hard in the second period on goals from Brent Burns and Justin Braun before cementing the game in third with goals by Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels.
San Jose's defense really clamped down in the third period, which was a good sign after so many failings there in the past three postseasons: the Canucks managed only five shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of the game.
With the win, the Sharks find themselves tied for first place in the Pacific Division with Los Angeles and Phoenix -- meaningless after one game but still the best way to start the season, especially at home.
San Jose hosts the Coyotes tomorrow night in the second game of the season, starting at 7:30 p.m.