Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE, Calif. — In front of an enthusiastic full house, the San Jose Sharks fell to the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 in their season opener at SAP Center on Wednesday night.
The Ducks had four rookies in the lineup replacing roster regulars who were out with injury. One of those scored Wednesday. Max Comtois, Rickard Rakell, Brandon Montour, Adam Henrique and Carter Rowney all scored for Anaheim, while Jakob Silfverberg had three assists in the game. John Gibson made 31 saves on 33 shots.
Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane scored for the Sharks, while Martin Jones made 10 saves on 14 shots.
Just 49 seconds in, Max Comtois scored on a breakaway after acquiring the puck in the neutral zone. It was Comtois’ first NHL goal. Assists went to Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg.
The Sharks started the game looking like a team playing on unfamiliar ice. Pucks seemed to skip over their sticks, passes missed and the Ducks’ game looked altogether more tidy. After 2:47, the Sharks were on the power play while Josh Manson sat in the box for interference on Kevin Labanc. That power play was cut short when Joe Thornton was called for tripping Hampus Lindholm. The Sharks create some chances during 45 seconds of four-on-four, and then got some four-on-four because Anaheim’s Pontus Aberg was called for goaltender interference just five seconds after the Manson penalty ended.
None of those penalties changed the score, but at 7:51, Evander Kane tied it up. The Sharks’ attack had just been rebuffed, with help from a bouncing puck and general poor timing. As they regrouped on their own blue line, Justin Braun’s pass found Kane crossing the Ducks’ blue line. He skated in with an edge on a defender and put the puck underneath John Gibson. It trickled through for the goal.
The last five minutes of the first period showed a much improved Sharks team. Passes started to connect, plays started to take form and decisions came faster. No more goals were scored but the Sharks stretched out their shot lead to 11-5.
The first five minutes of the second looked much the same. The Sharks jumped out with five shots to Anaheim’s one. As the midpoint approached, San Jose had outshot Anaheim 10-1. Anaheim’s second shot of the period was from Silfverberg and Jones had to be quick to stop it. That imbalance continued through the period, but the score did not change until the Ducks had a power play at 16:24.
Evander Kane was in the box for tripping Josh Manson. After breaking up a pass with his stick and knocking the puck out of the zone, Tomas Hertl followed up, evaded two defenders and scored short-handed at 17:14. While the crowd was still buzzing, Anaheim went back to their power play. Rickard Rakell scored off a nice pass through the blue paint from Silfverberg. Assists went to Silfverberg and Ryan Getzlaf.
At the end of the period, the teams were still tied 2-2 despite the Sharks’ shot lead of 26-9.
Kane and Hertl both had good chances in the first half of the third, but Gibson got in the way. Jones was less lucky at 8:02, when Brandon Montour skated in and scored with an almost casual backhand shot, giving the Ducks the lead. Assists went to Rakell and Getzlaf.
The Sharks looked like they were back to the opening minutes of the game, having trouble handling the puck and finding each other. Pete DeBoer changed the lines up a bit, putting Hertl with Meier and Thornton, and Kane with Pavelski and Hertl.
Logan Couture was called for interference at 10:08 of the third. It took the Ducks 13 seconds to score this time. Quick passes around the outside kept everyone moving, until Adam Henrique found an opening. The shot was not a hard one, it was just enough to slide under Jones without a fuss. Assists went to Silfverberg and Rakell.
In the final two minutes, DeBoer pulled Jones and put Hertl, Pavelski, Kane, Labanc, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns on the ice. Couture replaced Labanc before the end, but no combination could score a goal. The Ducks scored into an empty net with 23.7 seconds to go for the win.
The Sharks next play in Los Angeles against the Kings on Friday at 7:30 pm PT.