The Sharks debut of Joe Thornton came as San Jose looked for their first-ever victory in Buffalo. Team Teal had another new face in the lineup as defenseman Doug Murray was called up from Cleveland and played in his first NHL contest.
Thornton led the way with two helpers and everyone seemed to pitch in as Evgeni Nabokov and Nolan Schaefer combined for the 5-0 shutout. Joe Thornton
made his presence felt just seconds into the game when he rang his first shot off the post. That was only the beginning for Sharks fans.
It was the Captain’s line that would provide first goal though. Grant Stevenson, playing with Patrick Marleau
, found the puck in front of a downed Sabres netminder and backhanded the puck upstairs for the early lead.
Then it was Joe Thornton
’s opportunity. Thornton took the puck across the blueline and as the defender closed, found Jonathan Cheechoo skating toward the slot. The one timer sprang into the top corner above Mika Noronen’s shoulder and San Jose had a 2-0 lead.
The two teams were not even 10 minutes into the contest when San Jose made it 3-0. This time it was Marleau’s crew again. Controlling the play, Stevenson took the role of setup man and found Milan Michalek for a perfect shot.
And those were just the shots that went in as the ice was definitely tilted in San Jose’s favor.
Team Teal would make it 4-0 and this time is was Niko Dimitrakos scoring the goal. Using the extra time created by Josh Langfeld who threaded a perfect pass, Dimitrakos’ one-timer found the back of the net.
The goal forced a change in pipes for Buffalo as Biron entered the contest.
Later in the period, the Sabres would take to the advantage, but after a few strong saves by Nabokov, San Jose easily fended off the two minutes.
After twenty minutes, San Jose had doubled Buffalo’s shot total, but had exploded to a 4-0 lead.
They would not sit back on the lead, pressuring Biron immediately in the zone. The San Jose attack brought on a five-on-three advantage and Joe Thornton
and Cheechoo would find each other again. This time, Thornton held the puck just above the goal line. As the Buffalo defender knelt down, Thornton put the puck through his legs and Cheechoo easily knocked home the puck on the other side of the crease.
Buffalo’s best opportunity in the second came courtesy of a three-on-one rush, but Nabokov keyed in on the shooter and kept the lead at five.
San Jose may only have added one goal in the first eight minutes of the second, unlike the four in the first, but they were controlling play just as much.
The offense may have slowed down a bit, but the highlights continued. First Kyle McLaren landed one of his famous open ice hits that flattened an opponent. Then, with Buffalo on the power play, Nabokov moved all the way across the crease to stop a sure tally.
San Jose was forced to kill off another Sabres power play that would continue into the third period, but they would take the 5-0 lead into the second break.
San Jose could not add to their lead in the third period when on the power play, but their five-goal lead was looking very strong.
Near the midway point of the third, Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson put in Nolan Schaefer for Nabokov and the rookie would wind up the game.
Scott Thornton had the Sharks top chance to that point when he, his cousin and Cheechoo continued to play well together, but a fantastic save by Biron saved any additional Sharks goals. He would provide another Sabres highlight minutes later when he stoned Nils Ekman on a power play shot from point blank range.
The third period provided Wilson the opportunity to role four lines as the Sharks knew Toronto was waiting for them in less than 24 hours.
A tripping call to Marcel Goc provided some debate as to whether the combined shutout between Nabokov and Schaefer would hold up. San Jose’s penalty killers did their job and San Jose would close out the 5-0 victory and give the Sharks their first-ever victory in Buffalo.
On the blueline, rookie Doug Murray, just called up from Cleveland yesterday, will be making his NHL debut. The likely blueline pairings are:
San Jose will bus to Toronto following the game for their next contest Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. The game will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.