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Thrashers rally to beat Sharks 4-2

by John Kreiser

Dustin Byfuglien still has the magic touch against the San Jose Sharks.

Byfuglien had 4 goals, including three game-winners, as Chicago eliminated San Jose in the Western Conference Finals last spring. The Hawks, scrambling to get under the salary cap, sent him to Atlanta during the summer -- and he saved his first goal with his new team for the Sharks by breaking a tie with 6:20 remaining in regulation as the Thrashers spoiled San Jose's home opener with a 4-2 victory.

Coach Craig Ramsay has moved Byfuglien back to defense, but "Big Buff" broke a 2-2 tie when leaked down to the slot, picked up the rebound of Chris Thorburn's shot and zipped it past Antti Niemi -- Chicago's other hero against San Jose last spring and now a member of the Sharks.

It's always fun to come back and play against a former teammate and have a good time," Byfuglien said. "At the same time we're here to do a job and we can't ease up on him. We wanted to put as many shots on him as we could. He's a pretty quiet guy, a good kid, and he has a bright future."

Evander Kane added an insurance goal with 4:19 remaining, beating Niemi on a 3-on-1 break as the Thrashers won for the first time in their seven visits to the Shark Tank. The four goals were also the most they've ever scored in San Jose.

"It was quite a game," Ramsay said. 

Chris Mason stopped 37 of 39 shots -- including a third-period breakaway by Logan Couture just over a minute before Byfuglien put the Thrashers ahead. Mason was perfect after the Sharks jumped to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals 21 seconds apart by Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe. Heatley knocked in his own rebound at 15:20 and Clowe was credited with his first of the season when Torrey Mitchell's shot his the shaft of his stick and flew past Mason.

"Once again, our goaltender, Mr. Mason, gave us a chance to win," Ramsay said. "He cometed."

But the Sharks seemed to lose steam as the game went on, perhaps because of their six-day layoff after playing two games against Columbus in Stockholm last weekend as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere series.

"We had a little bit of energy early," said captain Joe Thornton, who earlier in the day signed a three-year contract extension. "But we kind of faded, and maybe the week off kind of hurt us. We had a lot of rest.

"You can't be giving away points this early in the season. I don't think we executed the way we usually do. We weren't sharp. We didn't look quick today, for whatever reason. We've got to be better Tuesday (against Carolina)."

Thornton said the fact that Byfuglien got the game-winner didn't matter.

"We don't care," he said. "You don't care who scores. You don't want anybody on the opposing team to score on you. You just don't want to lose."

Andrew Ladd, another player who came over from Chicago after winning a Cup last spring, got the Thrashers' comeback started when he knocked a rebound past Niemi 1:23 into the second period for a shorthanded goal.

Andrew Stewart, who had a hat trick in Friday's 5-4 shootout win at Anaheim, tied it at 13:58 when he hammered a 20-foot slapper from just above the right faceoff circle that beat Niemi past the blocker.

"They're pretty young and pretty fast," Mitchell said of the Thrashers. "We have to sharpen up our play. We did some good things, but we've got to sharpen up."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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