SAN JOSE, Calif. -- New season, same results.
The Sharks opened their 2013-14 campaign Thursday night with a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks -- extending their winning streak over their new Pacific Division rivals to eight regular-season and playoff games.
San Jose got its goals from familiar sources -- Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns -- as well as some unfamiliar ones -- Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels -- and goalie Antti Niemi stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
The Sharks also got their first sample of what life will be like without injured Raffi Torres, who is expected to miss several months recovering from knee surgery. Without Torres, San Jose had two rookies in the lineup, Matt Nieto and Tomas Hertl, who earned a key assist on Burns' goal.
Aside from the usual reasons for wanting to get a new season off to a good start, the Canucks had the revenge factor in their favor.
After all, the Sharks were the team that swept Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs last spring after winning all three games between the teams in the regular season.
"They're going to come out tonight remembering we were the ones that kicked them out," Marleau said before the game.
The Sharks outshot Vancouver 16-7 in the first period. But Roberto Luongo came up with big saves -- blocking Joe Pavelski's shot on a short-handed breakaway, frustrating Logan Couture when he redirect a well-placed pass from Marleau -- and the Sharks came away empty-handed.
Vancouver got its lone goal with Burns in the penalty box for slashing as Jason Garrison blasted the puck from the high slot to beat Niemi at 9:04.
Still, the Sharks persevered, coming back with two goals to take a 2-1 lead in the second period.
Burns tied it 5:53, taking a neutral zone pass from Hertl before snapping off a 27-foot shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Luongo on the short side.
San Jose squandered a major opportunity later in the period when Canucks forward Ryan Kesler interfered with Niemi and, before the whistle stopped play, Garrison tripped Joe Thornton at the other end of the ice. Despite the two-man advantage for the full two minutes, the Sharks couldn't grab the lead.
That did come at 18:07 when Braun launched a shot from the right point that found its way through traffic for the defenseman's first goal in 70 regular-season and 16 playoff games.
It was still a 2-1 game midway through the third period when Niemi made his biggest save of the night on Chris Higgins while the Canucks were on a power play.
But the Sharks put the game away when Marleau converted a perfect pass from Couture to beat Luongo at 14:39 and Wingels finished off an odd-man rush with Andrew Desjardins just 78 seconds later.
Coach Todd McLellan was looking for improved performance from his team and got it, as all four goals were at even strength. However, he couldn't be happy with the fact the Sharks were 0 for 8 on the power play.
Defenseman Brad Stuart was kept out of the Sharks lineup, not yet game ready after his recovery from an offseason lower body injury. Stuart has been practicing with his teammates for more than week, however, and is said to be close to returning.
This was the fifth time the Sharks opened the season with two rookies playing their first NHL game. The last time that happened was 2009 with Jason Demers and Benn Ferriero, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
A Vancouver reporter asked McLellan about one publication's report that he was on the hot seat in San Jose.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault lost his job last offseason, and there had been scuttlebutt that McLellan might have been fired if the results were reversed in their playoff series.
"Alain and I ran into each other at the draft and we kind of looked at each other and just smiled," McLellan said. "When you get into this racket, the bullets are already flying around. It's just whether you're going to get hit by one."
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