SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi made his long-awaited debut, but the red-hot Anaheim Ducks wound up stealing the show and winning the game Monday night at HP Pavilion.
Ageless Ducks forward Teemu Selanne scored a pair of first-period goals, and backup goaltender Dan Ellis made 41 saves in his first start this season in place of Jonas Hiller, leading Anaheim to a 3-2 victory.
Anaheim forward Corey Perry, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, scored a goal for the second straight night, giving him two this season after his League-best 50 last season.
Forward Torrey Mitchell and defenseman Brent Burns scored for the Sharks.
Selanne's goals were Nos. 48 and 49 for his career against the Sharks -- his former team -- and his first two goals this season. He now has 95 career points against San Jose.
"I think I got more points early on when the Sharks, they were not that good yet," said the 41-year-old Selanne. "Lately it has been tougher and tougher. They have a great team out there. I'm always playing with great players. They have helped me a lot. I've tried to do my job and enjoy this. It was a team effort tonight again. They had a lot of good chances. Ellis was standing on his head in the third. That's what we need."
The Ducks improved to 4-1-0, their best start since the 2006-07 season when they won the Stanley Cup. They won their fourth straight game and beat the Sharks for the third straight time, including twice in the past four days.
"It's what we've talked about since the start of the season," Perry said. "This is what we've wanted to do. We haven't had the best starts in the last few years. This is something to build on, something different. Everybody is getting a chance to play and is contributing. I think everybody's starting to find their role and find their stride."
The Sharks entered the season intent on getting off to a fast start after last season's sluggish one, but they lost their third straight game and fell to 1-3-0.
"You look at the last three games we've played in the last four nights, and they are very similar in a lot of ways," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We made some real dumb mistakes that led to the other team's goals. And then at the other end a ton of chances but none going in."
Shortly before training camp opened, Niemi underwent surgery to remove a cyst near his knee, and he didn't play in a single preseason game. He didn't suit up for the season-opener and was on the bench the next two games, backing up Thomas Greiss.
On Monday night, Niemi finally made his debut, facing one of the hottest teams in the NHL. He faced only 22 shots but allowed three goals.
Just 4:13 into the third, Perry beat Niemi with a spectacular goal, putting the Ducks up 3-1. Perry glided to his left in the circle, spun and fired a laser that beat Niemi, who appeared to be screened by Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.
The Sharks wouldn't die, in part because the Ducks wouldn't let them. Anaheim took three straight penalties, including back-to-back delay of games. With 19 seconds left in a 5-on-3 power play, Burns blasted a slap shot past Ellis, cutting Anaheim's led to 3-2 with 8:59 left.
With 3:11 left, Ellis made a glove save of Logan Couture's blast from the low slot. In the final minute, after the Sharks pulled Niemi, Ellis survived a flurry of shots from a desperate San Jose team and stopped every one.
"You don't want to be the guy that loses a little bit of a streak, and in the same way when you are on a bit of a losing streak, you want to be the guy to snap it a little bit," Ellis said of his role as a backup. "You want to take pride in those opportunities, knowing that (Hiller) is healthy and playing exceptional, playing as well as he is. You know the opportunities aren't going to be there as often."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle called Ellis' performance "real strong," particularly since it came in the second game of a back-to-back for Anaheim.
"We didn't show like we were too worse for wear early in the game, but then once we started to take penalties, definitely the ice tilted in their favor, and that usually calls upon your goal-tender to make some big stops, and Dan Ellis did that," Carlyle said.
The Ducks jumped on Niemi quickly in the first, but his teammates did him no favors, drawing five first-period penalties.
"We said early that we need to stay out of the penalty box," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who notched his 696th career assist, tying him with Sergei Fedorov for 53rd on the NHL's all-time list. "We made a parade to the penalty box early on and it hurt us."
The Ducks took a 1-0 lead on Selanne's power play goal at 9:47 in the first period. Saku Koivu whipped a sharp pass from below the right circle across to crease to Selanne, who rammed the puck home from close range before Niemi could shift back into position.
The Sharks had taken three quick penalties, the first on Tommy Wingels for high-sticking, the second on Dan Boyle for roughing and the third on Andrew Desjardins for delay of game. Niemi handled some dangerous shots during a 5-on-3 onslaught, but he finally broke while trying to kill the third penalty when the Ducks had a 5-on-4 advantage.
Selanne struck again with 5:27 left in the first period, this time scoring an even strength goal. Koivu rocketed a long shot that bounced off Niemi, and Selanne ripped the rebound past him, putting the Ducks ahead 2-0.
"That's what he does," Perry said of Selanne. "He's a natural goal scorer. He's finding those areas, and tonight I think both goals were scored in the crease. So he's going to those dirty areas to score goals. He's a guy that we love around here, and we know what he can do and he's proven it once again."
The Ducks outshot the Sharks 12-10 in the first period, but the Sharks turned up the pressure in the second, firing a barrage of shots at Ellis. San Jose outshot Anaheim 17-7 In the period but only one of the Sharks' shots got past Ellis.
The Sharks cut Anaheim's lead to 2-1 at 6:39 of the second period on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's first goal of the season. A sprawling Duck blocked Vlasic's shot from the left circle, but it wound up ricocheting off Bobby Ryan in the slot and back through Ellis' legs.
Midway through the third period, Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin took a Dan Boyle shot off his visor that cut his forehead during a Sharks power play and left immediately to the locker room, bleeding profusely. He returned with four minutes left to play after receiving stitches.
"He's still got a nasty gash, but it's one of those things," Carlyle said. "I don't think he meant to shoot it that high. The puck gets away from you in some situations."