09 02 50 20
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Everybody needs speed in the new NHL, and the San Jose Sharks hope some of the quickest legs in hockey will take them a long way.
Wayne Primeau scored two goals, Evgeni Nabokov stopped 26 shots and the Sharks raced to a fast-paced victory in their home opener, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Marco Sturm and Scott Thornton also scored for the Sharks, who took an early two-goal lead and then pounded Columbus with 22 shots and two more goals in the first 15 minutes of the second period. That one-sided period, featuring countless fast breaks and relentless drives to the net, was an example of the style San Jose hopes to play every night.
``If you're a defenseman, it's pretty hard to stand up on some of our guys with the speed they have,'' Thornton said. ``We have the speed and the skill to really get down there and get the puck on the net over and over again. The way the game is being officiated now, we're going to be tough to stop.''
Sturm and Primeau scored first-period goals for the Sharks, who capped a raucous pregame ceremony by unveiling their 2003-04 Pacific Division championship banner at the sold-out Shark Tank.
The game was the building's first real hockey since Game 5 of the Western Conference finals nearly 17 months ago - the last of four straight home playoff losses to end the best season in franchise history. The NHL is different now, with new rules encouraging free-flowing offense and ostensibly banning the sketchy defensive techniques that defined the NHL's last dozen seasons.
``That's as loud an opening night as I've ever heard anywhere,'' coach Ron Wilson said. ``They provided a lot of excitement, and I hope we reciprocated with the same kind of energy on the ice. (The fans) are really going to enjoy the new NHL with the speed and the emphasis on offense. It's a fun game to coach with the weapons we have.''
The Sharks have won two straight after two road losses to open the season. With four lines of speedy, young forwards and an improving defensive corps in front of Nabokov, San Jose's optimism is nearly as high as its banners.
Thornton and Primeau scored 61 seconds apart in the second period, both thanks to horrendous lapses in team defense by the Blue Jackets. Thornton scored on the fourth rebound in front of goalie Marc Denis, whose teammates stood watching instead of clearing the puck.
``We had a lot of breakdowns and gave them a lot of scoring chances,'' Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. ``They have great speed, but we're very capable. To get outplayed like that in the second period was disappointing. They had nine shots on the two goals, and you can't let that happen in the NHL.''
Nabokov took a shutout into the third period before Radoslav Suchy scored on a long shot through traffic with 8 1/2 minutes to play.
Denis made 32 saves for the Blue Jackets, who open the season with five of six games on the road. Columbus has lost three of the first four, scoring just seven goals while star forward Rick Nash is on injured reserve with a sprained ankle.
``There were too many rebounds,'' Suchy said. ``We had a couple of chances and didn't score, and then they jumped on us. They had four guys getting to the puck on shots. They have a lot of speed, and it was hard to hold them. We couldn't get back in time.''
Sturm got his second goal of the season when Denis misplayed his slap shot, allowing it to trickle into the net. Primeau scored 70 seconds later, adroitly controlling the rebound of Jonathan Cheechoo's shot and lifting a backhand over Denis' pad.
After Columbus killed 90 seconds of a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second period, the Sharks went up 3-0 on Thornton's first goal of the season. Thornton, who at 34 is San Jose's oldest player by 4 1/2 years, scored on the third rebound by the relentless Sharks while Denis' defenders stood watching.
Columbus' defense again was a step slow moments later, when Primeau followed another shot by Cheechoo with a rebound goal.
Notes: Earlier Wednesday, the Blue Jackets said first-round pick Gilbert Brule will be out for six weeks with a broken sternum. ... San Jose has won 13 of the clubs' 17 meetings. ... Sharks C Marcel Goc was helped off the ice with six minutes left after blocking a shot with his knee. Wilson said it wasn't serious.