Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/20/13
CALGARY -- Patrick Marleau was the target of a caustic profile on a Calgary radio station in days leading up to the start of the NHL season. The San Jose Sharks forward was mocked for his reputation of not being a big-game player for a team that has failed repeatedly to live up to Stanley Cup-championship expectations. Marleau got the last laugh Sunday, scoring twice in the Sharks' 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames in the opener for both teams. He said he didn't hear the radio bit -- among the knocks was how his captaincy was stripped a few years ago and how he conserves energy over the course of the season for the annual "five-game" playoff run -- but he wasn't fazed. He was more concerned about starting the season on the right note. "You don't normally get your first goal in January," Marleau said in a reference to the season's late start following a lockout. "It was a good first game, and we have a bunch more to go." Martin Havlat and Dan Boyle also scored for the Sharks, who fell behind 1-0 during a one-sided first period in which the Flames were by far the better team. But a comeback to kick off a season sets a good precedent. "We weren't our best, let's put it that way," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "We have a lot of work to do. Starting on the road and getting the first win is huge. "(On Saturday) night, it felt like the playoffs were going to start. Everyone was gathered around watching hockey. It feels real good to be back." The Flames were feeling good after the first period, during which they opened the scoring on Lee Stempniak's tally, but their inability to extend the lead proved costly. Rookie Sven Baertschi came close to making it a 2-0 game, but his golden chance rang off the post. "It was an inch. An inch and it could have been in," Baertschi said. "It happens like that, you know? Next time, maybe that one goes in." Next time, though, the Flames have to keep playing the way they did beyond the first period. "The bottom line is we played 40 minutes," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "We have to show more consistency." That inability to at least double the lead proved costly just past the midway point when Marleau was on the spot after Thornton stripped the puck from Flames defenseman Mark Giordano and gave a perfect pass to Marleau in the slot. The goal at 13:52 of the second period tied the score. After Havlat scored to give the Sharks a lead by converting on a rebound less, Marleau netted his second by also being on the spot for a rebound. San Jose scored its three second-period goals in a span of 4 minutes, 18 seconds. Dan Boyle rounded out the scoring on a power-play goal with one minute left in the game. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi stopped 31 of 32 shots to get the win. The Flames were forced to go without prized offseason free-agent acquisition Jiri Hudler, who returned home to Czech Republic due to the death of his father. His return date isn't certain. "I heard he would be back early this week, but I don't have the details to give you an exact answer," Hartley said. "He's taking care of all the paperwork with his dad and all the business, because, unfortunately, he's the only child. He's by himself and has to take care of everything. From what I've heard in the locker room, he's coming back the next few days." NOTES: Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff played the 600th game of his career. He went into the season needing three wins for 300 as a Flame, a mark he would be the first in franchise history to reach. He made 25 saves in Sunday's loss. ... The Flames didn't have any players make their NHL debut. Baertschi played five NHL games last season, ... The Sharks had defenseman Matthew Irwin play his first NHL game ... San Jose had 11 players skate for teams in Europe during the NHL lockout, including Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Niemi. ... Scott Gomez, who was bought out of his contract by the Montreal Canadiens, is travelling with the Sharks, and he even skated early in the day when the team had ice times. The Sharks are getting a sense of Gomez's fitness level.
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