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Sharks use balanced attack to beat Canucks again

by Kevin Woodley /

VANCOUVER -- With all the focus on rookie scoring sensation Tomas Hertl coming in, the San Jose Sharks showed that the real strength behind their perfect start runs a lot deeper.

San Jose got goals from all four lines and 24 saves from Antti Niemi to extend its win streak against the Vancouver Canucks to nine games with a 4-1 victory Thursday night.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, fourth-line wing Matt Pelech, left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing Brent Burns all scored for the Sharks, who haven't lost to the Canucks since January 2012. Logan Couture and captain Joe Thornton each had two assists for San Jose, which improved to 4-0-0, including two wins against Vancouver, while outscoring opponents 21-5.

"We're just deep -- really, really deep -- and we want to come at you every night, and we have been doing that early," Thornton said. "That's how our offense has been this year, all four lines have been going good, and I don't think [coach Todd McLellan] is afraid to put anybody on the ice right now. It's nice seeing everyone can score."

For a change, Hertl wasn't among those scorers.

The Czech rookie stole the show with four goals in a 9-2 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday and started the day atop the NHL scoring race with six goals and seven points. His biggest moment against the Canucks, though, was having his helmet popped off by a questionable hit from Alexander Edler late in the second period. The 19-year-old was back to start the third period, when he was twice denied by Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo while all alone in tight.

McLellan expects the NHL to take a look at Edler's hit.

"No doubt there is contact to the head," McLellan said. "That is obvious. It's how it will be interpreted."

The Sharks are no strangers to hot starts. They won their first seven games last season before losing the next seven. But that fast start was keyed by a potent power play.

"We relied on our power play a lot," Thornton said. "This year, it is five-on-five, it is four lines, it is six D. We're winning by community right now."

The Canucks had been doing the same since losing the opener in San Jose. But trailing by two in the third period against the Sharks on Thursday, they only managed two shots the first 10 minutes, six shots overall and few real scoring chances.

"We certainly didn't have enough players going to make a difference," said coach John Tortorella. "Every 50-50 puck, they stick-checked us and were going the other way."

Mike Santorelli scored his fourth goal in three games for the Canucks, who were swept by the Sharks in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to them 4-1 in the season opener on Oct. 3.

Luongo finished with 25 saves for Vancouver, which celebrated 25 million fans attending events at Rogers Arena but didn't give the home crowd much to celebrate after the opening faceoff.

"The first period, we were a little tentative and against a team like that you have to play 60 minutes to give yourself a chance," Luongo said.

Vlasic opened the scoring 12:16 into the first period, taking a cross-ice feed from Burns atop the left circle and quickly firing a shot past Luongo low on the blocker side.

Pelech, called up from the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League on Thursday, doubled the lead in the final minute of the period with his first NHL goal. Pelech, whose uncle is Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, took a pass from James Sheppard behind the net and quickly lifted the puck up and over Luongo's glove from the top of the crease.

"It felt awesome. It was a really good feeling to see that go in," said Pelech, noting it might have been a little harder for his uncle to celebrate. "But hopefully he's happy for me, too."

Canucks fans finally had a reason to cheer when Santorelli, who scored the overtime winner in each of the past two games, cut into the lead midway through the second period. But the celebration was brief; Marleau restored the Sharks' two-goal cushion just 95 seconds later, one-timing another pass from behind the net over the blocker of Luongo.

"We need to at least play with that for a little bit and not get scored on so quickly," Tortorella said. "Really, that was a gimme. We were just too slow. We turn it over when we don't need to and then we don't react defensively. We had time to save that play after we turn it over and we just didn't react. Our reactions were slow tonight."

Vancouver managed only two shots in the first half of the third period and four before pulling Luongo with 3:08 left, allowing Burns to round out the scoring with an empty-net goal.

"We know what to do with leads now," Thornton said.

The Canucks' new coach was impressed.

"We had some forechecking, but give them some credit … they locked it down pretty well," Tortorella said. "It's not like we're playing against no one out there, but we need to have more people going to play against a balanced team like that, and we didn't tonight."

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