The San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils were both projected contenders before the season began. Yet both have struggled early in the season, with the Devils easily having the worst record in hockey (2-6-1) coming in and the Sharks just 3-3-1.
To make matters worse for the hosts, they were 0-2-1 as the home team and the Devils little success had come on the road (2-2-0). Their only two wins were shutouts by Martin Brodeur, and he was in net; with the Sharks struggling to score outside of the power play, and the Devils being about average on their penalty kill and near the bottom of the league in penalty minutes.
But new Sharks captain Joe Thornton struck early and often, with a goal less than half-way through the first. He assisted on another by Patrick Marleau fewer than two minutes later, and by the time the first period was over, had another goal to put the Sharks up 3-0.
A bad bounce gave the Devils a goal about three minutes into the second period, and they hung in the game until another bad bounce gave Thornton his fourth career hat trick (the teams first on the power play) with just over three minutes left in the period.
After the San Francisco Giants had won Game One of the World Series, I tuned to the NHL Network and caught the first of my San Jose Sharks action for the third period from my temporary Dallas residence. What I saw of the action included crisp passing and good defence.
Despite controlling the puck-in part from winning 35 of 54 faceoffs-they had only three more giveaways and the same number of takeaways and blocked shots. They also registered five more hits (23-18).
The Sharks top line registered another goal by Dany Heatley in the third period, giving all three forwards at least four points and a plus-four rating. They allowed a power play goal after an undisciplined string of penalties in the latter half of the third period. Anterro Niittymaki closed out a solid performance in net, stopping 27 of 29.