Sharks Home Opener: Former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, 4 unanswered goals power Atlanta to 4-2 win over San Jose

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Monday, October 18, 2010 - Save & Share - One Comment

San Jose Sharks Atlanta Thrashers NHL hockey Patrick Marleau Dany Heatley goal

San Jose Sharks Atlanta Thrashers NHL hockey Torrey Mitchell faceoff

The San Jose Sharks returned to the Bay Area from the European leg of their regular season schedule only to drop the Saturday home opener at HP Pavilion with a 4-2 loss to the surging Atlanta Thrashers. Former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien (PP) and Andrew Ladd, 2009 4th overall draft pick Evander Kane, and Anthony Stewart scored 4 unanswered goals to give the Thrashers their second win in two nights. Dany Heatley registered the 300th goal of his career (PP), Ryane Clowe also added another first period tally, and goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 24 of 28 shots against in a losing effort.

The Sharks were the last of the half dozen teams that made the European debut to return to action. A near solid week of practice, with one day off to recover from travel, focused on improving offensive production 5-on-5 after they opened with only 1 even strength goal in their first two games. While San Jose was looking to get back into game action, the Thrashers were looking to maintain a consistent effort after a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. Atlanta had to bypass San Jose Mineta airport due to the late night curfew, and had to bus down from Oakland only to arrive at their hotel at 2AM.

The play was lopsided and disjointed early, but San Jose dictated the action and put pressure on Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason. After a frightening fainting spell saw Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec lose consciousness on the ice, former Nashville and St. Louis netminder Mason carried the workload in his absence. According to the Blueland Blog’s Ben Wright, Pavelec has been medically cleared to play and could return to the lineup in the near future.

The Sharks put it on Mason early, outshooting Atlanta 12-4 after 20 minutes, 30-13 after 40. There was a huge cheer inside HP Pavilion when the scoreboard flashed the result of the SF Giant’s game 1 win in the NLCS, but a flurry of penalties would follow. Freddy Meyer, a former Boston University defenseman not related to the chain of California Fred Meyer supermarkets, took the first minor penalty for tripping at 13:32. Nearly a minute later Rich Peverley (tripping) and Devin Setoguchi (unsportsmanlike conduct, diving) took matching minors before defenseman Johnny Oduya took a hooking call. The end result was a Sharks 5-on-3 power play, and career goal number 300 for right wing Dany Heatley. Patrick Marleau fired a quick shot from the left faceoff circle, and Heatley beat Joe Pavelski to bury the rebound. Goal #300 places Heatley one behind legendary Shark Ulf Dahlen (301) on the all-time list in 175th place.

5-foot-11, 190-pound Torrey Mitchell has been a notable peformer for the Sharks in preseason. After missing the entire 2008-09 season with a leg injury, he has been creating scoring chances with speed and driving the net like a forward 20 pounds larger. 21-seconds after the Sharks first powerplay goal, Mitchell helped spark another scoring sequence 4-on-4. Flying down the left wing, he pulled up and wristed a shot that appeared to beat Mason cleanly gloveside. Replays showed Ryane Clowe got his stick on the deflection for his first goal of the season. The Sharks nearly padded their lead when Dany Heatley pressured Evander Kane into a turnover at the end of the first, but Heatley could not convert the breakaway opportunity.

The team philosophy for head coach Todd McLellan during the offseason was one of growth, continuing to take a step furthur in the evolution of the franchise. A skilled litigator could make the case that the overarching theme to the start of the Sharks 2010-11 season is one of balance. Splitting up the big three of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley spreads the playmaking ability and offensive creativity across three lines. Calder eligible center Logan Couture lines up with Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley. Joe Thornton will take on a mentor role along with his second captaincy centering 22-year old Jamie McGinn and 23-year old Devin Setoguchi. On the third scoring line featuring three centers, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski will look to spark speedy two-way forward Torrey Mitchell. Consistency over 82 games and scoring finish are two areas that are critical for Mitchell, but his work ethic and defensive responsibility have already made an impact 3 games into the season.

On the blueline and in goal, the theme of balance is continued. Dan Boyle, averaging over 27 minutes a game, will be featured with Douglas Murray on the top defensive unit for the second year. With Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Niclas Wallin, and Kent Huskins-Jason Demers, each blueline pairing will feature a puck moving and a defensive-defenseman element. Prior to the game with Atlanta, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said the roles for Murray and Vlasic on the power play will grow this year. He also noted that Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski will continue to see time on the point, and that the man advantage will feature more movement and become “less predictable”. In goal, Finnish netminders Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki allow the Sharks a 1A/1B option that never came into play with Brian Boucher or Thomas Greiss.

Over 82 games the balanced approach could smooth over peaks and valleys during a marathon NHL season, but at the beginning there could be a feeling out process. Playing a full 60 minutes takes a familiarity and a cohesiveness that may not be there at the moment, but the coaching staff could evaluate how the current configurations adapt to obstacles and make adjustments from there. At the start of the second period, a fight between left wing Frazer McLaren and another former Blackhawk Ben Eager resulted in another burst of penalties. After young Russian Alexander Burmistrov took an interference call for a blindside hit on Scott Nichol, Eager and McLaren squared off for a quick hockey fight. McLaren has been in against Boll and Eager so far this season, two veteran players who know all the tricks of the trade. At 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, McLaren has natural size and a heavy right hand. He has the potential to be a player others avoid down the line.

Shorthanded, Thrashers center Bryan Little made an excellent play down the left wing with Patrick Marleau in his back pocket. Little pulled up to the left of Niemi, spun and flicked an off balance shot on goal. Andrew Ladd banged home the rebound to put them on the board. The Sharks continued swarming Mason down low. 220-pound Dany Heatley, and 225-pound Ryane Clowe were effective along the boards. Both repeatedly set up Couture, who alternated taking it to the net or pulling the trigger on quick shots from the slot.

Despite the pressure from San Jose, Stewart-Ladd-Little was an effective line for Atlanta. Little fed Anthony Stewart a long breakout pass on the right wing, and Stewart banked a shot off the post for his 4th goal in 24 hours. Antti Niemi went into a butterfly just outside the crease, leaving room up top and Stewart buried it up high. Niemi kept the Thrashers from rolling, getting a piece of a Tobias Enstrom slaspshot, just enough for the puck to trickle wide. He also flashed the glove on a Rich Peverley’s breakaway opportunity up high at the end of the second period.

The Atlanta Thrashers gift wrapped an opportunity for the Sharks to take a 3-2 lead with a too many men on the ice penalty at 5:32 of the third, but San Jose could not convert. Joe Thornton spun off Johnny Oduya behind the net, then feathered a backhand pass to Patrick Marleau on the doorstep. Mason stuffed the first attempt, then made a hard push to his right to stone Joe Pavelski on the rebound. Later in the power play a wide point shot by Dan Boyle deflected off the boards and in front of the net. Marleau and Heatley converged on Chris Mason, and both raised their hands after a short shot on goal. Chris Mason’s left shin pad sealed off the post and swallowed Marleau’s shot.

Minneapolis-born Dustin Byfuglien became public enemy #1 in San Jose when he scored 4 goals (3 of them game winners) against the Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. Switching from forward to his natural defensive position with Atlanta, his offensive instincts still make him equally dangerous. With four players massed in front of Antti Niemi on a late Atlanta third period power play, Byfuglien gained control of a rebound in the slot and buried the game winner at 13:40. Byfuglien garnered the largest boo’s of the night from the partisan sellout crowd. He helped the Thrashers earn their first franchise win in seven opportunities at HP Pavilion, and the first win against San Jose in almost 8 years. Evander Kane added his third goal of the season at 15:51.

“It was a role reversal, I didn’t think we’d come out as well as we did and I thought we’d get better as the night went on. The exact opposite happened,” San Jose Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan told “We weren’t prepared to buckle down and work hard enough to win that game.” Developing balance will help San Jose in a number of areas, but developing and cultivating a killer instinct also needs to be a priority moving forward.

“Our goaltender Chris Mason gave us an opportunity to win, he battled” new Atlanta Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsey told the Blueland Blog. “At 2-0, if they score it is over. The breakaway he stopped at 2-2 gave us the momentum we needed to come back.” Ramsey replaced former Atlanta head coach John Anderson in June. Saturday night’s matchup between San Jose and Atlanta are the only time the two teams meet during the regular season.

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One Response to “Sharks Home Opener: Former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, 4 unanswered goals power Atlanta to 4-2 win over San Jose”

Pingback from Hockey Notes – October 19th | SHARKSPAGE
Time October 19, 2010 at 2:26 PM

[...] seasons, expectations are high for the Bay Area franchise but an overtime loss in Europe and a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers have slowed San Jose out of the [...]