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

Friday, 10.04.2013 / 12:55 AM The Canadian Press

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

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.

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 that kept the Sharks off the score sheet on seven chances, including a two-man advantage for 2 minutes. 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 Ryan 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 scored 5-on-5 goals on either side of the two-man advantage in the second period.

San Jose had four even-strength goals after finishing 28th in the league in that category last season.

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.

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.

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 Brent 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.

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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