VANCOUVER -Jeremy Roenick missed out on a steak dinner, but he found a starring role in San Jose's starting lineup far more appetizing.
Roenick scored two first-period goals as the Sharks spoiled Vancouver's home opener with a 3-1 victory over the Canucks before a sellout crowd of 18,630 at GM Place on Friday night.
While a member of the Coyotes last season, Roenick drew the ire of Phoenix club officials when he left a game in Vancouver early while sitting as a healthy scratch. His excuse was that he wanted to go and have a steak dinner.
"That steak at the Keg was really good," said Roenick. "They serve a really good steak - there's no question about that. But I'll take the two goals instead."
Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks as they improved to 1-1 in the young season. Brendan Morrison scored a third-period goal for Vancouver.
All goals came at even strength as the Sharks were blanked on seven power-play chances and the Canucks whiffed on four. San Jose outshot Vancouver 31-23.
Roenick's strong showing came after the outspoken 19-year veteran talked about retiring before he signed with San Jose as a free agent in the off-season.
"I was retired," he insisted. "I had my golf clubs in hand. I was ready to hang 'em up. Thank goodness a call from (Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson kept me around."
Roenick's first goal proved to be the winner as he put San Jose a 2-0 ahead 11:48 into the game. He easily fought off Canucks defenceman Lukas Krajicek and poked in Torrey Mitchell's rebound while standing on Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo's doorstep. The goal came just three seconds after a double high-sticking major to Kevin Bieksa had expired, so the Canucks were still essentially facing a five-on-four situation.
Roenick capitalized again less than four minutes later as he deflected in defenceman Doug Murray's point shot following a face-off in the Vancouver zone. Now, he is just three goals shy of 500 for his career.
"Every goal is an exciting one now," said Roenick. "You do inch closer to the milestone. But more importantly, it's doing the things that this team needs me to do and going out there and helping them. If I just go out there and play the way they want me to and play hard, that (record) stuff is going to come. I can enjoy it when the season's over. But right now, it's just nice to have this team win. That's more important."
The Canucks raised their 2006-07 Northwest Division banner title to the rafters during a pre-game ceremony. But the hosts gave their fans little to cheer about as they were clearly outhustled and outmuscled by the much faster and larger Sharks in the opening 20 minutes and never recovered.
"It wasn't the start that we had hoped for," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "We felt the excitement, we felt the buzz. We wanted to get off to a good start and we made a couple of mistakes early, took some penalties. They're a very tough team to play against when they take a 3-0 lead right in the first period."
Roenick considered himself lucky to be in the lineup, considering the Sharks have no shortage of offensive firepower. The goals justified coach Ron Wilson's decision to put Roenick in the lineup instead of rookie Devin Setoguchi, who led the Sharks in the pre-season with five goals.
"J.R.'s buying everyone a steak dinner at the Keg - the coaches anyway," shouted Wilson as reporters gathered around him in a happy Sharks dressing room. "He sees all the talent we have and we certainly respect what he's done in his career. I've known him forever and Doug Wilson was his first roommate in Chicago. So there's a bit of a comfort factor for J.R. We're not asking him to do too much, just to come in, be part of the team and be positive in the room. He's been great so far."
The Sharks coach said Roenick is "finding his game again" after playing with Phoenix and Los Angeles clubs that missed the past missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Roenick now has a legitimate chance to claim a Stanley Cup, which has eluded him throughout his career.
But he will still have to fight to stay in the lineup.
"I hate to say that he could be on the bubble every night, but we're pretty deep up front and we've got a few injuries right now," said Wilson. "So it's important that he pay attention to detail."
Vigneault's experiment of using rookie right winger Mason Raymond on the first line and second-year forward Ryan Shannon on the second unit fizzled as the Canucks generated little offence in the first 20 minutes.
Vigneault juggled his lines in the third period as he reunited Taylor Pyatt with the Sedin twins and shuffled Raymond to the fourth line centred by Brendan Morrison. The move paid off as Morrison scored on a wraparound at 5:56 and Raymond assisted, registering his first NHL regular-season point.
The Canucks thought they had scored again at the midway mark of the third as Shannon's shot from behind the net caromed off San Jose defenceman Craig Rivet's leg. But a video review ruled the puck found San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov's glove before it crossed the goal-line.
"It was a pretty close call, but I think I got it out of the air," said Nabokov.
It was one of several chances on which Shannon was denied. But he was clearly one of the best forward as Vancouver's veterans struggled.
"I thought Ryan Shannon had multiple, multiple, multiple opportunities to score," said Vigneault. "He put himself in position, took some good shots but just wasn't capable of finishing."
But Roenick clearly proved that he's not finished yet.
NOTES - Defenceman Mike Weaver played his first game as a Canuck after being claimed off waivers earlier in the week from Pittsburgh . . . Vancouver wingers Jeff Cowan and Brad Isbister were healthy scratches . . . Sharks rookie winger Devin Setoguchi, San Jose's top goal scorer in the pre-season, defenceman Rob Davison and centre Curtis Brown were healthy scratches. Defencemen Brad Norton and Alexei Semenov both sat out with back injuries while centre Tomas Plihal (shoulder) was also absent from the lineup. They are all on injured reserve . . . Markus Naslund now shares the title of longest-ranking Canucks captain with Stan Smyl. Naslund began his eighth season as captain Friday . . . Eight of the 26 players on the Sharks roster are former first-round draft choices. The Canucks, by comparison have four - Linden and the Sedin twins, who were original Vancouver draftees, and Naslund, who was picked by Pittsburgh.