For those expecting the Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks to exchange eye gouges and flying elbows off the top rope, Wednesday proved a letdown.
The bitter rivals staged an actual hockey game. Shocker, right?
Reilly Smith had two goals, and Cody Glass scored in his NHL debut as the Knights rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Sharks in the long-awaited season opener at T-Mobile Arena.
Mark Stone added a goal and an assist, and William Karlsson finished with two assists.
The Knights scored twice in the opening 5:21 of the first period, sending the record announced crowd of 18,588 into a lather.
“There wasn’t too many antics in that game,” Smith said. “I think we did a good job just controlling the game with our transition and our forecheck. We’re not worried about the other stuff. We just want to play hockey and make other teams chase us.”
Here’s what we learned from the Knights’ victory:
1. Schmidt injury a buzzkill
The sight of defenseman Nate Schmidt on all fours midway through the first period was the giant booger in the punch bowl for the Knights’ season-opening party.
Schmidt was injured in a knee-on-knee collision with San Jose’s Logan Couture midway through the first period and had to be helped to the locker room favoring his left knee. Despite playing with five defensemen the remainder of the game, the Knights limited San Jose to 22 shots on goal.
Schmidt was suspended for the first 20 games last season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, and the Knights went 8-11-1 in his absence. When he returned to the lineup, the Knights went 19-4-3 from Nov. 18 through Jan. 8 to climb back into contention.
Coach Gerard Gallant said after the game that he would have an update on Schmidt on Thursday. If he is out for an extended period, the Knights must turn to one of their rookie defensemen.
Nic Hague was recalled from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and has yet to appear in an NHL game. Jimmy Schuldt has one game to his credit. Both were healthy scratches against San Jose.
2. Fleury climbs list
Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a forgettable season opener last season, getting pulled in a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia.
This outing went much smoother, as he posted 21 saves and was rarely tested.
Fleury improved to 10-5 in his 15 career season openers, tying Curtis Joseph and Martin Brodeur for the most season-opening wins in NHL history.
“I’m just trying to win that first one, get it over,” Fleury said. “I think last season was a rough start. I just wanted to make sure this one was better, and especially against these guys.”
3. Missing EKs
Sharks forward Evander Kane missed Wednesday’s game as he started serving his three-game suspension for abusing an official during Sunday’s exhibition finale against the Knights. That took some of the venom out of the opener.
But San Jose also was without two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. The defenseman missed the game “to attend to a personal matter,” according to the club.
No further details were provided, and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after the game he was not sure whether Karlsson will be available for Friday’s rematch in San Jose.