SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The puck hadn't even dropped Sunday night at HP Pavilion and there were already two players in the penalty box -- San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe and Vancouver Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows.
It was that kind of night between what have become bitter Western Conference rivals.
In a physical game filled with penalties, fights and crushing hits, the Sharks beat Vancouver 4-1 and improved to 5-0, their fastest start in franchise history.
Getting two goals from Joe Pavelski and one from both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, the Sharks snapped Vancouver's streak of four straight victories at the Shark Tank. The Canucks, who had a goal from Burrows, fell to 2-2-1.
The game turned chippy as the Sharks and Canucks lined up for the opening faceoff. Sharks forward Logan Couture and Burrows made contact with each other in the circle. Clowe quickly got involved, and both he and Burrows earned unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
"Burrows tried to put his head into my face, so I just lifted his head up and then he sucker punched me," Couture said. "I don't know … good start to a game.
"Every time we play Vancouver it's like that. They don't like us, we don't like them. We expect a battle, and sometimes games get out of hand a little bit. If they're going to put us on the power play, we'll take it."
"I didn't talk to Clowe," he said. "I was going into the faceoff and Logan pushed my head and I pushed him back. That was it. We obviously dislike each other. We've seen them in the playoffs a couple of years ago. They're a Western Conference rival and they make for good games."
Patrick Marleau's historic streak of multi-goal games to start a season ended at four, but he still scored a goal and had an assist. He also got to see some other strange history made. For the first time ever, the Sharks started a game 4-on-4 because of penalties before the puck dropped.
"it was the first time I've seen something like that," Marleau said. "Whenever we play Vancouver, it's going to be a tough game and rough game at times. Tonight was no different."
The Sharks got tremendous goaltending from Antti Niemi, who made 23 saves, and a perfect night from their penalty killers, who went 7-for-7 against one of the NHL's most dangerous power plays.
Clowe had a busy night that ended early when he received a game misconduct with 26.5 seconds left in the second period. Clowe was sent to the box for high sticking and quickly received two more minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then, when he slammed his stick against the wall of the penalty box, he was hit with a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a game misconduct.
For the game, Clowe had a franchise record eight penalties for 35 minutes. He traded punches with and got the better of Vancouver's Zack Kassian late in the first period -- both went to the box for five minutes. Midway through the second period, Clowe delivered a big hit to defenseman Christopher Tanev, blasting him into the boards behind the Canucks' net.
“Obviously we're not happy about the penalties, and that's all we're going to say about it," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who notched his 200th victory in just his 333rd game -- faster than all but Bruce Boudreau, who took just 326 games. "I owe Ryane Clowe my conversation. I don't owe any of you guys my conversation with Ryane. I have a ton of respect for Clowie, as do all his teammates. He's going to continue to be a very , very important player for our hockey club."
As a team, the Sharks had 13 penalties for a season-high 51 minutes. Vancouver had 12 for 33.
Just 43 seconds into the game, Thornton gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with his third goal of the season.
Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic set the scoring play in motion when he launched a hard shot from the left circle. Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider blocked Vlasic's shot, but when defenseman Jason Garrison tried to clear the rebound, he sent it the right to Thornton, who beat Schneider with a shot from the slot.
The Sharks took advantage of another Vancouver mistake to take a 2-0 lead at 3:26 of the first on Pavelski's first goal of the season.
With the puck deep in his zone, Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler tried to make a cross-ice pass, but Pavelski easily intercepted and quickly fired the puck past Schneider.
"Power play wasn't as good," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were unable to score. A couple of unforced errors that ended up right on their tape and in the back of the net. What's important is how we responded, and I thought we responded very well."
Niemi made a handful of huge saves in the first period. He stopped Jannik Hansen on a breakaway just seconds before Pavelski's goal. Later in the period, Henrik Sedin fired a shot from the low slot that Niemi handled. Then, on a Canucks’ power play late in the period, Niemi made back-to-back saves on a pair of shots by Burrows.
The Sharks also dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 18 of 24 draws in the first period.
Vancouver cut San Jose's lead to 2-1 at 11:05 of the second, when Burrows scored on a shot from the right circle. Niemi actually rejected the puck, but it bounced off left skate of Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle and found the back of the net.
The Sharks answered at 14:27 of the period on Marleau's power-play goal, and this time San Jose took advantage of a well-placed skate. With time winding down in the power play, Couture fired a shot toward the net from the left circle. The puck pin-balled off bodies in front of the net, bounced off Marleau's right skate and shot past a sprawling Schneider, who actually gave it an extra shove with the back of his glove.
Trailing 3-1, the Canucks had 3:34 left on a four-minute power play, resulting from Clowe's meltdown, as they opened the third period. But the Sharks escaped unscathed, thanks to their penalty kill.
"It's been pretty good all season so far," Pavelski said of the penalty kill. "There's just been a minor breakdown here or there where the puck's ended up in the net. We knew we had to just stay with the plan we knew we were going to do, and if we can pressure a little bit more, we'll try to do that.
"We're confident in the group, that we all can kind of chip in and do it. We've got four units that go out there. On the four-minute kill tonight, it was important. No one got tired. We got the clears, we won some faceoffs. That's what you've got to do on PK."
Pavelski made it 4-1 with a power play goal with 11:46 left to play, taking a pass from Thornton and sending a one-timer from the right circle past Schneider.
Marleau scored two goals in each of the Sharks’ first four games and almost got his second goal late in the third, but was denied by Schneider.