SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Dave Lewis waited 15 years for this
night, and yet he didn't feel one butterfly.
It's easy to be confident when you're coaching the Detroit Red Wings, who look every bit as good as the team that won the Stanley
Cup last season.
Kirk Maltby scored two short-handed goals in the first 7:05, and
Curtis Joseph made 23 saves to win his Detroit debut Thursday night
as the Wings opened defense of their title with a 6-3 victory over
the San Jose Sharks.
Sergei Fedorov also scored two goals as the Red Wings rolled to
an easy victory for Lewis, the longtime assistant coach who got
Detroit's top job last summer. With two more games still to come on
Detroit's road trip, Lewis didn't allow himself more than a moment
of reflection and satisfaction.
"I think it's all about preparation,'' Lewis said. "It was a
long time to prepare for this day, and I think that's why I wasn't
nervous. ... It feels good to win, and that's what winning's all
about, feeling good.''
After the game, the players presented Lewis with the puck, which
he called "a tremendous souvenir.'' Scotty Bowman, Lewis' famed
predecessor who retired after the Wings' Cup win, watched the game
from ESPN's studios in Connecticut.
With a convincing victory and exceptional play on special teams,
Detroit's powerful, veteran lineup didn't miss a beat after
offseason changes and the absence of captain Steve Yzerman, who's
out until January following knee surgery.
Joseph bolted from Toronto in hopes of winning a title as the
replacement for retired Dominik Hasek. Wearing his customary
rabid-dog mask -- in red instead of Maple Leafs blue now -- Cujo was
mostly solid, with a stunning point-blank stop of Todd Harvey late
in the second period.
"When you've got a big lead, it takes the pressure off
everybody,'' Joseph said. "Coming in with a new team, you want to
get a win right off the start. Once the puck drops, though, same
old, same old.''
Kiprusoff, who's expected to be the Sharks' starter while Evgeni
Nabokov remains a contract holdout, was replaced by Vesa Toskala to
start the third period. But Kiprusoff wasn't to blame for at least
four of the goals, which resulted from sloppy defense and poor
puck-handling by his teammates.
Vincent Damphousse had two goals and an assist, and captain Owen
Nolan had three assists for the Sharks, who lost their opener for
the third straight season -- twice to Detroit.
"We were an emotional group tonight,'' Nolan said. "We had no
focus. We had early mistakes, and they capitalized and burned us
with every one.''
The Sharks hung their Pacific Division title banner in the
rafters in a pregame ceremony, but they clearly weren't the same
team without Gary Suter, injured wing Scott Thornton or holdouts
Nabokov and Brad Stuart.
The Red Wings went ahead just two minutes in on a short-handed
goal by Maltby -- and it happened on a play that justified the
Sharks' biggest fears about the season after the retirement of
Suter, their veteran defenseman and power-play quarterback.
Jeff Jillson, a second-year pro who's expected to replace Suter
and Stuart on the power play, made an atrocious pass from the
Sharks' corner. It was fumbled by Mike Rathje and intercepted by
Maltby, who easily beat Kiprusoff.
"Things weren't going right out there,'' Jillson said. "We
didn't establish our presence, and our power play backfired. We
seemed to be stumbling all night. We need to regroup.''
Maltby got another short-handed goal a few minutes later when
Nolan missed the puck near the boards and gave up a 2-on-1. Fedorov
scored in the opening minute of the second period with a nasty
wrist shot -- which he nearly duplicated 11 minutes later for
"We're not stupid. We don't expect to get those bounces every
night,'' Maltby said. "Everybody has a little rust on opening
night. They're a better team than that.''
Rathje scored a power-play goal early in the third period.
Detroit also opened the 2001-02 season in San Jose. Brendan
Shanahan scored two short-handed goals in that game, including the
game-winner in overtime.
San Jose has won just two of its 12 season openers. ...
Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings' rookie forward, got his first NHL
point with an assist on Fedorov's first goal. Zetterberg, a Swedish
Olympian, was considered the world's best player who wasn't in the
NHL last season. ... Maxim Kuznetsov got a double minor six minutes
in when his errant high stick opened a gash above Nolan's nose. ...
Joseph has 25 career victories over San Jose -- more than any other