Golden Knights’ second-period goals deflate Sharks in season-opener

SAN JOSE – The San Jose Sharks game on Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights carried with it all the pomp and circumstance — and the hope – that’s usually associated with a season-opener.

But with the Sharks in the depths of a rebuild, and the Golden Knights seeking a second straight Stanley Cup, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the game started to tilt in a certain direction.

The Sharks gave up goals to Nicolas Hague and Nicolas Roy in the final 89 seconds of the second-period in what became a 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights before an announced sellout crowd of 17,435 at SAP Center.

The two teams were tied 1-1 when a shot by Hague got through Sharks goalie Kaapo Kahkonen’s legs at the 18:31 mark of the second-period. Roy added another goal 53 seconds later, putting the Sharks in a hole they couldn’t escape.

“I thought that really deflated us,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “I thought we played a good period for 18 minutes. They had two scoring chances in the second period up to that point, and (the goal) just really deflated us, really took the wind out of our sails.”

Filip Zadina, who signed with the Sharks as a free agent this summer, scored at the 17:48 mark of the first period for San Jose’s only goal. Kahkonen made 27 saves in the loss.

“They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, they’ve got a ton of swagger, there’s a lot of conviction in what they do,” Quinn said. “It’s not really a feeling out process with them. But we’re still coming together as a team and there’s a lot of things I liked about our game.

For 30 minutes, it was a 1-1 hockey game and then we didn’t handle the adversity the way that we needed to. We’ve got to build on the positive stuff here and turn 38 into 60.”

The Sharks are beginning the year with a vastly different roster than the one that finished last season with a dismal 22-44-16 record. Of the 23 players on the Sharks’ active roster right now, eight are new to the organization as Mike Grier continued his team’s extreme makeover in his second full season as general manager.

The new faces include forwards Zadina, Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund and Givani Smith, defensemen Kyle Burroughs and Jan Rutta and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood. Zadina, Smith, Burroughs and Blackwood were all signed as free agents, with Hoffman, Granlund and Rutta brought in as part of the trade that saw reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson shipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite the changes, oddsmakers and prognosticators are not optimistic that the Sharks can improve upon last season’s record. In fact, some expect the Sharks to have the worst record in the NHL, and therefore the best chance to own the No. 1 overall pick for the 2024 NHL Draft.

That didn’t mean much to Quinn, of course.

“I want to see an honest effort physically and mentally,” Quinn said. “One of the things that we need to do night in and night out is earn respect. One of two things happen every time you show up here and you go on the rink. You’re either going to earn a little respect, or you’re going to lose a little respect and for us, it’s about gaining respect.

“When you play with the right intentions, you usually gain respect.”

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