Returning from Stockholm the Sharks stumbled out of the gate with a disappointing home opener that had fans concerned to say the least. Mental errors, sloppy play and a disjointed jetlagged effort had earmarked the young season with several red flags.
Poor puck security, lack of efficient breakout, defensive lapses and lacking defensive effort punctuated some underlying problems for the San Jose Sharks.
These problems figured to become even more exaggerated against a speedy, young and hungry Colorado Avalanche team that gave Sharks fans a brief scare last year.
Someone forgot to tell Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks returned to basics, returned to form and notched their first win on US soil in the young NHL season.
Pavelski scored five goals against the Avalanche in last year's first round playoff series including the series winner.
He picked up where he left off as he connected on two power play goals to help power the Sharks to a 4-2 victory.
When asked about his success against the Avs, Pavelski replied "I don't know what it is, I just have to keep playing here, I guess. It's just one of those things. It must be the lighting. Who knows, but the team played good tonight. We knew there were going to be a few mistakes, but we worked hard and kept it simple."
Antero Niitymaki posted 29 saves to post the win after rebounding from a careless puck handling mistake from behind his own net. Chris Stewart and various Avalanche would crash the net, as the puck would squirt loose to Cuminsky for a virtual empty netter at 14:43.
Antero looked strong for most of the game, displaying a good control of his rebounds and seeing the puck well.
The Sharks would answer on a tremendous hustle play by John McCarthy who held the puck into the Avs zone. Jamal Mayers making his first appearance in a Sharks sweater would take the puck low before throwing the puck into the crease as Scott Nichol capitalized at 19:11.
Matt Duchene had a night to forget as he took a lazy tripping penalty early in the second frame that was his first of three penalties on the night. Heatley would thread a perfect pass through the slot as Joe Pavelski banged it home for his first goal at 1:08.
Little Joe would score again with a two-man advantage at 8:44, banging a Dany Heatley rebound home. Special teams play has been stellar this year, and Thursday was no different as the Sharks shined on the power play.
"You need the power play to be a strength," Pavelski said. "You can win a lot of games like that."
Antero would stand tall on more than a few quality chances, including a near point blank chance against Duchene and Yip following a poor play by both Douglas Murray and Jamal Mayers.
Joe Pavelski added his second score of the game following a Patrick Marleau rebound on the TJ Galiardi delay of game penalty at 8:44. Joe Sacco would promptly call a timeout to settle his troops down and get them to stop taking poor penalties.
Following a Dan Boyle interference call, Jason Demers would get caught out of position as Wallin could not take both Avs players in the crease. Milan Hejduk would knock in the rebound on the power play at 7:25 of the third period.
Logan Couture would put the finishing touches on the game by scoring the empty netter with 1:12 left on a banking clearing pass by Murray.
While this was just one win, Sharks fans have to breathe a sigh of relief as the team got back to it's winning ways. That being said, there are still some serious question marks about this team and it's effort so far.
Stars of the Game
Third Star: Dany Heatley
Heatley showed plenty of jump in his stride Thursday night, posting two assists and flashing his excellent shot.
Despite some great vision, Heatley was a little lazy and had three turnovers on the night while cycling in the offensive zone. Might be a case of trying to do too much, but on this night Heater got the team going.
Second Star: Antero Niitymaki
Niitymaki was more than strong and up to answering the Avalanche on almost every turn outside of his first period gaffe. Quite easily the best performance by a Sharks goalie so far this season, Frank looked very sharp while seeing the puck extremely well. The Avalanche had some serious scoring chances in this game, and Niitymaki shut the door
First Star: Joe Pavelski
You were expecting?? Little Joe once again proved to be more than your Average Joe as he shone against a familiar opponent.
"Pavs, for whatever reason, has Colorado's number—which is fine by us," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said.
Pavelski admitted after the game being frustrated by the season so far and he as well as the rest of the team will look to build on this win.
Goat of the Game
Douglas Murray: The big man continues to struggle this season, and against the speedy forecheck he made several huge mistakes that led directly to very good scoring chances by the Avs. Some of these mistakes are just bad mental ones, either Murray is doubting himself or just not making the right choice.
Either way, his play needs to clean up and clean up quickly for a team that isn't exactly deep at the blueline.
Five-on-five scoring: Continues to be a non factor for a team that has scored eight of its 13 goals this season with the man advantage. While the excellent power play is a great hook to hang your hat on, the Sharks need to show more of a five-on-five presence.