Reviewing the San Jose Sharks 2013 NHL season-opener Sunday, January 20, the theme of "better late than never" seems appropriate. After having to wait more than three months for the season to start, they struggled in the first period. Goalie Antti Niemi gave up the lead on a Lee Stepniak power play goal, but kept his team in the game until they responded with two strong periods.
A few players made debuts of their own. Adam Burish and Brad Stuart made their first appearance with their new team (Stuart was with San Jose until the end of November of 2005) and Matt Irwin made his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames.
Irwin was outstanding, putting two shots on goal (two more were blocked) and registering two hits with a plus-1 rating in over 19 minutes. He also kept a puck in the offensive zone and got it through to Patrick Marleau right in front of the net.
It was one of the few plays Patty did not make. He had already banged in the first goal of the season on a power play just past the mid-point of the contest and added another at even strength before the second period was out. Both came on rebounds right in front of the net.
Between his goals, Martin Havlat put in a rebound of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot on the power play. To make it happen, Ryane Clowe had to gather in the puck and pull up along the half-boards to find a passing lane.
The game was clearly in hand by the time a 5-on-3 power play goal by Dan Boyle increased the margin with a minute left. He also had an assist on Marleau's second goal—as did Joe Pavelski, who also assisted on Boyle's goal. It is the fourth straight two-point season-opener for Pavelski, who was matched by Joe Thornton's assists on the first and last goal. Logan Couture has a secondary assist on the first goal to round out the scoring.
In the first period, Niemi had four or five highlight-reel saves while the Sharks were out-shot 15-9 despite winning over 70 percent of the faceoffs. They were turning the puck over because passes were misfiring and could do little more than get sticks in the way to disrupt passes and scoring chances.
In the first half of the second period, they began taking over play but still struggled to create scoring chances. The first Marleau goal opened the floodgates, with Havlat's goal coming 73 seconds later and Patty's second just 3:05 after that.
The Sharks slowed things down in the third period to protect the lead, being out-shot 12-6 in the finale to give Calgary a 32-29 edge for the game. The Flames blocked three more shots and missed six more while the Sharks had three more giveaways. None of it mattered because of Niemi's play and the battle victories in front of both nets.
San Jose registered five more hits and won 15 more faceoffs (61 percent), helping them to grind time away after their second period offensive explosion. That edge on draws was established mostly by Pavelski (nine of 11) and Couture (11 of 15), and Andrew Desjardins led San Jose with three hits despite fewer than nine minutes on the ice.
- First star Patrick Marleau tied the game and outscored the opposition by himself with two goals on three shots (two more attempts) with a hit, a giveaways and two takeaways.
- Second star Antti Niemi turned aside 31 of 32 shots (.969) with multiple highlight reel saves.
- Third star Joe Pavelski had two assists, two shots (two more blocked), a block and a giveaway in addition to dominating in the faceoff circle.