San Jose goaltender Martin Jones is a notoriously slow starter. That tendency has been been especially magnified both in season openers and at T-Mobile Arena.
It happened again on Wednesday night in a 4-1 Golden Knights victory over the Sharks as the bitter rivals opened the regular season.
Jones surrendered a power play goal to Mark Stone on the first shot the Knights took on net, marking the fourth time in five years Jones has started for the Sharks that he has allowed a goal on the first shot he saw in a season.
“I don’t know,” he said of the statistical anomaly. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Jones, who entered the game 3-6 all-time against the Knights in Las Vegas, allowed another goal two minutes later to Reilly Smith before finding a rhythm.
He kept the Sharks in the game for much of the night, turning away several great scoring chances for the Knights, who peppered him with 35 shots.
“We said coming in we didn’t want to give them any in the first 10 minutes, and we gave them two,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “It’s tough to come back in this building when you give them two goals right away.”
A depleted defense didn’t help matters for Jones and the Sharks.
San Jose was without star blueliner Erik Karlsson, who was a late scratch for what the team called a “personal matter.” Coach Pete DeBoer, who was also missing standout forward Evander Kane because of suspension, said he found out just an hour before the game that Karlsson wouldn’t play. He was replaced in the lineup by Tim Heed.
“It’s hard,” DeBoer said. “We have a lot of young players that we’re asking to come into this environment against a veteran, battle-hardened team with revenge on their minds. It was a big ask. The result was just and deserved. Hopefully we’ll learn some lessons and get better from it.”
Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, is entering his second season with the Sharks after coming over in a trade from the Senators just before the start of last season.
DeBoer had expressed optimism in recent days that Karlsson would have a huge bounceback season after he was hindered by nagging injuries that limited him to 53 games, though he still recorded 45 points for a team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
The Sharks will have to wait to see if the massive investment they made in him this summer, an eight-year, $92 million contract, pays dividends.
DeBoer said he was unsure about Karlsson’s status for the rematch on Friday night in San Jose.
Karlsson’s absence also hurt the Sharks on the power play, where they were 0-for-6 on the night.
Things didn’t go much better for the Sharks top defensive pair. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was on the ice for all four Knights goals, and Brent Burns was whistled for a penalty that led to the Knights’ first power-play goal, then committed a turnover that sprung Reilly Smith and William Karlsson on a breakaway that Smith eventually finished for a short-handed tally.