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Sharks get off to fast start in 6-3 win

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks vowed to get off to a fast start this season. Unfortunately for the Phoenix Coyotes, the Sharks were as good as their word.

San Jose came out flying, scoring the game's first four goals on the way to beating the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3 on Saturday night before a delighted sellout crowd at HP Pavilion.

Joe Pavelski scored a pair of power-play goals for the Sharks, and fourth-line center Andrew Desjardins also scored twice. Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe each scored a goal, and goalie Thomas Greiss earned the victory in his first career NHL opening-night start.

The six goals tied a Sharks franchise record for the most scored in a home opener.

"Great game," captain Joe Thornton said. "We took some penalties in the third, but overall a great start. I thought everybody played well. Everybody skated well. Once we got the first couple goals early, we kind of sensed they were kind of deflated. The lines worked out well. Everybody's still learning each other so we can still get better, but good first game."

Captain Shane Doan scored a pair of goals for Phoenix, which trailed 4-0 early in the second period and trailed 6-1 entering the third.

"It was embarrassing," Doan said of the loss. "That's the way it is sometimes. It's tough. It's not the way you want to start."

The Sharks, who went 5-1-0 against Phoenix last season, beat the Coyotes for the sixth straight time in San Jose. They also ended Phoenix's streak of five straight opening-night victories, which was the longest active streak in the NHL.

Greiss, third on the Sharks' depth chart, started because No. 1 goalie Antti Niemi is still recovering from surgery to remove a cyst on a leg and backup Antero Niittymaki is recovering from hip surgery. He faced 29 shots.

"The team played very well from the get-go, so that took the pressure off me," Greiss said. "Scored a couple goals right from the get-go. Made my night a little bit easier. I'm happy it's over, happy we won."

Goalie Mike Smith had a rough debut for Phoenix, allowing six goals while facing 52 shots. The former Tampa Bay goalie signed as a free agent with the Coyotes to replace Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a mega-deal with Philadelphia.

"Any time you give up six goals, something is going wrong," Smith said. "It was obviously not the start I was looking for and obviously not the start our team was looking for. We definitely have to rebound and pick up the intensity."

The Sharks finished 24th last season in the penalty kill, and they still have some work to do after allowing three power-play goals.

The Sharks slumbered out of the gates last season, starting 21-19-5, before waging a furious stretch run to win the Pacific Division and finish with 105 points, second only to the Canucks' 117 in the West. After the Sharks fell to Vancouver in five games in Western Conference Finals, general manager Doug Wilson said the Sharks "drained" their "tank" by having to work so hard after their sluggish start.

There were no signs of sluggishness on Saturday. The Sharks jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period, outshooting Phoenix 19-4 and dominating the action.

"I thought we had a very good first night, did a lot of things well," coach Todd McLellan said. "Captured the energy in the building and played with it, which I thought was real important, rather than being flat. Power play was good. I thought all four lines contributed."

"Giving up three (power-play goals) was not what we planned on doing, but I'm more disappointed maybe with the penalties we took than the penalty kill itself. When you're up 6-1 you shouldn't put yourself in that situation."

Pavelski scored the Sharks' first goal of the new season 4:01 into the game on the Sharks' first power play. Patrick Marleau chased down the puck behind the goal and lasered a pass through Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris' legs to Pavelski, stationed in front of the crease. Pavelski did the rest, beating Smith to his glove side. Two of the Sharks' first three goals were on the power play.

"We kind of know going into the season from past seasons that it can always set the tone in games," Pavelski said of the power play. "You either gain momentum there or you lose it. We were able to have some success on it."

Handzus, a free-agent pickup from the Los Angeles Kings, scored his first goal as a Shark with 11:34 still left in the first period, making it 2-0. Handzus corralled the puck behind the net and whipped a wraparound shot that caromed off defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and past Smith.

Handzus, centering the third line, made a quick impact, scoring his goal and drawing two penalties, the first one leading to Pavelski's goal.

"We took a couple of penalties early and they capitalized on them," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We made some mistakes early, couldn't handle their pressure and they came at us full bore. They just overwhelmed us for the first two periods. That's something that's very disappointing in the way our group reacted."

Almost all of the first-period news was bad for Phoenix. Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival was helped off the ice with 13:42 left in the opening period after being hit in the face with the puck on Marleau's power-play shot from above the right circle. He was face down on the ice bleeding as trainers examined him, was helped off and did not return.

"I know he got a puck in the nose," Tippett said. "They sewed him up and they kept him out for precautions. We'll see where he is tomorrow."

The Sharks extended their lead to 4-0 in the second period as Clowe scored on the power play and Desjardins on a breakaway.

Clowe took a perfect pass from Logan Couture in the left circle, skated into the slot and rammed a shot past Smith into the upper right corner of the net at 7:33. Couture had an assist, and so did Tommy Wingels, his first career NHL point.

A minute later, Desjardins grabbed a Coyotes turnover in the neutral zone and raced the other way with nothing but ice in front of him. He rocketed a shot past Smith, making it 4-0.

"It was a fun game," said Desjardins, who had his first-ever two-goal game and first-ever two-point game. "Just ready to build on it."

The Coyotes cut the lead to 4-1 on Doan's power play goal with 7:44 left in the second. But the Sharks answered quickly with two more goals in the second, one by Pavelski on the power play and the other by Desjardins, jumping their lead to 6-1

Phoenix made it 6-2 on Ekman-Larsson's power play goal at 4:56 of the third period, and Doan scored a power-play goal at 9:35.

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