SAN JOSE – The Anaheim Ducks are a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup this season, and their forward depth may be the primary reason. Along with offensive forces like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, the Ducks added the skilled Carl Hagelin to their top six while Mike Santorelli and Shawn Horcoff help fill out the bottom two lines.
The new attitude Sharks weren’t overmatched in their home opener on Saturday, though, and continued to roll four lines for the duration. Anaheim had a territorial edge for the first half of the first period, but San Jose never changed its strategy.
It paid off.
After an evenly played first 40 minutes, Patrick Marleau broke through late in the second period and added an insurance marker in the third, for a 2-0 win that gave them their second win in as many tries. Martin Jones made 24 saves in his first shutout in teal.
“I think both games we’ve had four lines going,” said newcomer Joel Ward, who assisted on both of linemate Marleau’s markers. “There are a lot of guys just buzzing and working hard for each other. It’s good to see everyone rolling and playing.”
Leading 1-0 at the second intermission thanks to Marleau’s rebound goal, the Sharks’ third period was their best. They outshot Anaheim 17-3, including Marleau’s second goal, reaping the rewards for using the entire bench.
At one point midway through the final frame the third and fourth lines applied pressure in the Ducks’ zone for several minutes, and although the end result wasn’t a goal it was evident that the Sharks were the team that had the better skating legs.
Marleau’s one-man effort put the game away when he took advantage of Simon Despres and Cam Fowler appearing a little flat-footed on a wraparound with just 4:50 left in regulation. It was the kind of goal that happens when an opposing team is worn out.
“I thought we got better as the game went on, especially in the third period there in a 1-0 game,” said Jones, who made 24 of his 27 saves in the first 40 minutes. “We showed a lot of character with how well we played and playing in their end for most of the third period. I thought it was a really good effort tonight."
Marleau’s performance was encouraging, especially after he failed to reach the 20-goal plateau last season. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer was around the puck all night, and pumped a game-high seven shots on goal.
“It's nice to get a couple early,” he said. “Something to build off of.”
DeBoer said: “He’s in great shape. I think last year was a bit of an aberration. He’s come out, with a lot of other guys, to prove that.”
Marleau’s second goal is evidence that he’s still fine physically. After a long shift in the defensive zone and on a potential two-on-one with Ward, he kept his legs moving and was rewarded for it.
Ward headed toward the bench to avoid being caught deep with no legs to get back, but Marleau trucked on ahead.
“I came back to the bench, I knew we were in their zone a little bit and I tried to play it safe,” Ward said. “Next thing you know, our hands are up in the air and I was looking for water.”
The Sharks couldn’t have drawn up a better way to start their redemptive season, with wins over their two biggest rivals and teams that they figure to be battling with all season in the Pacific Division. On Saturday morning, DeBoer called the upcoming game with the Ducks a “statement” game.
What kind of statement was made?
“I think a statement was made that the Sharks are back and we’re for real this year,” he said. “We’re only two games in, but we played two tough teams. … I think the guys are feeling good about what we’re doing.”
Joe Pavelski said: “A step in the right direction, I think. … Just keep building.”