The San Jose Sharks hadn’t played a game against NHL opposition on an NHL sized rink in more than a week, yet they overcame that and all the hoopla that went with opening the year in Sweden and topped the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.
“It feels good, you always want to start with a win,” said Ryane Clowe
The players knew the game was a little rough around the edges, but that is the reality of opening night sometimes.
“I think in the first game, every player is trying to get the feel of the game,” said Joe Thornton
. “We have been travelling quite a bit and for the guys to bear down and get the two points, it was very important.”
“It was sloppy, but it usually is in the beginning of the season,” said Douglas Murray
. “I think it’s been 10 days since we played a game on the small ice. We don’t ever have our full line up during preseason games. It’s what you expect.”
After the four first period goals, the two clubs had trouble finding any tallies in the second period and that set up Logan Couture
’s third period goal to win the international affair. Considering Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan has no problem skating the youngster between Patrick Marleau
and Dany Heatley, the big goal to open the year should not be a surprise.
“I think after last year’s playoffs he is expecting a lot out of himself and I know his teammates are,” said Thornton. “I thought he played great tonight. He is mature for his age. He plays strong and tough and is very hard to knock off the puck. I thought his game was solid tonight.”
Couture was as cool after the game as he was scoring the goal.
“We needed one on the power play,’ said Couture. “I thought our unit moved the puck well. It was just a matter of time before we got one. Seto was right in front of him. It was there D-man and Seto, I don’t think he even saw it. It went low glove.”
The entire organization was happy to help Thornton to win in his first game as captain.
“He scored a great goal,” said Clowe. “It was a great shot and on a big guy like that the C looks nice.”
Thornton did what he normally does and deflected credit when it came to his first goal of the season.
“I think it was a little lucky and tipped off the defenseman’s stick,” said Thornton. “It was just nice to help out the team.”
There was a big point in the game where Douglas Murray
used his physical talents to pancake a Columbus player with a clean hit. The Jackets response was an effort to tie up Murray and the ref signaled the penalty. Then the attempt was made to goad Murray into a fight, but the Swede took the higher road and an important power play.
“Dougie plays a lot of minutes for us,” said Thornton. “I’m not sure how many minutes number 15 plays for them, but I thought that would have been a bad trade off. Dougie is a smart player and he is a tough character, but he did a good job there.”
There is no questioning Murray’s toughness, but in this instance the team came first. Plus he had help deciding what to do.
“At the right place and the right time,” said Murray. “We were going on the power play and our captain was yelling ‘no’. We were up 1-0 and about to grab more momentum in the game. You’ve got to be smart about it and can’t do it for selfish reasons.”
There was an unordinary amount of minor penalties called in the game, but that may have been expected with opening night and the time both teams had between games without an NHL opponent. Plus the players knew it was coming.
“I think early in the preseason we were warned that games were going to be tighter,” said Thornton. “Kind of like after the lockout. I thought the refs did a good job. At least they kept it fair and that is all the players want.”
Everyone in the Sharks organization took a deep breath when they had to watch Mike Commodore take Jamie McGinn into the boards. Commodore was sent to the penalty box and McGinn was down on the ice for a few moments before skating to the bench.
“That’s a tough play right there,” said Thornton. “I’m glad Ginner came out O.K., or it seemed like he was O.K.”
Murray and Niclas Wallin both had extra attention on them this week as the only two Swedes on the roster. While they were cool on the outside, postgame they acknowledge some butterflies.
“I was a little nervous here to be honest,” said Wallin. “I had a lot of people here. I think it’s great the NHL is bringing the game over here.”
“I’ve been really calm all week and then I think when I woke up this morning I started to feel it,” said Murray. “Then the pregame skate came about and I was fairly calm. I was enjoying the Swedish national anthem - that really pumped me up. They should play it in the states more often.”
NICE DEBUTSAntti Niemi
was sharp in his Sharks debut, earning the win and making the big stops when necessary.
“Early on they had some good chances (on the power play),” said Clowe. “We saw last year first hand, he really takes away the bottom of that net. It is a good feeling playing in front of him. He’s calm back there and he talks a lot too. It’s nice and I’m happy for him.”
“They had their chances too on the power play,” said McLellan. “He is a big man and fills up the bottom of the net. He did what he had to do.”
After winning in Finland with Chicago last year, Niemi might be the greatest proponent of the international games.
“It’s great to get that first win in the first game so you don’t have to think about it anymore,” said Niemi.Tommy Wingels
not only made his Sharks debut, but his NHL debut as well.
“It was a cool experience,” said Wingels. “The first game is what you will always remember and I’m pretty happy it came in a win. I was calm at times and at other times pretty nervous. (Overall) I thought it went all right.”
SWIMMING & DIVING?
There were matching minors to the two teams when Niclas Wallin was tripped up with the puck and whistled for diving. Wallin acknowledge being caught off guard with the double whistle, but could joke about it after.
“It is what it is, if he calls me a diver, I’m a diver,” said Wallin. “It’s probably the first diving call I’ve had in my whole hockey career. I’ve got the puck and the advantage behind the net. He pushed my knee forward. If he calls it a dive, then it’s his call. I thought it was funny.”
BACK TO BACK
The Sharks will be back in the Globe Arena in less than 12 hours after leaving the building as they prepare for Saturday’s morning skate.
“We really need to go home, get some sleep and try and get the four points because that is what we came here for,” said Thornton.