ANAHEIM Evander Kane from the moment he came into the NHL as a gifted 18-year-old had more than eight seasons to think about what it was going to like to play in his first Stanley Cup playoff game.
He couldnt have dreamed of a better debut, and the Sharks couldnt have asked for a better start to the postseason.
Kane scored twice in his first NHL playoff game and goalie Martin Jones led a mostly sterling defensive effort with 25 saves for his fifth career postseason shutout as the Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 on Thursday in Game 1 of their opening round series.
Game 2 is Saturday, and the Sharks, now owning home ice advantage, have an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series before it shifts back to San Jose for games 3 and 4 next week.
Its nice to contribute. Thats my job, Kane said. Whether thats the regular season or playoffs, Ive always felt confident in my abilities. As I said, I dont think it was my best game, but Ill never get mad after a playoff victory.
Brent Burns also scored for the Sharks on Thursday to cap a dominant second period, when Kane scored twice off assists from Joe Pavelski to give his team a 2-0 lead.
The first came on a shot from the slot at the 7:07 mark when San Jose capitalized on a game-changing two-man advantage. Kane struck again with 6:09 to go in the second period, as he took a pass from Pavelski on a 3-on-1 on the left wing, stickhandled back to the middle and beat Anaheim goalie John Gibson with a backhand shot.
We know he likes to compete and play in these games, and hes been excited to be here ever since, the trade deadline, Pavelski said. Weve definitely welcomed his game and him (being) here, and tonight was confirmation of that.
Jones and the Sharks defense took care of the rest. Jones made 13 saves through two periods, when San Jose held the Ducks to just five shots on goal at even strength.
Kane, the Sharks marquee acquisition before the Feb. 26 trade deadline when he came over from the Buffalo Sabres, had gone 574 regular season games without an appearance in the postseason. Since the trade, hes been everything the Sharks have wanted him to be, using his size, speed and no-nonsense playing style to record 14 points in 17 regular season games.
Kane said in the lead-up to Thursdays game that he always felt he was a playoff-type player. Now he was finally getting a chance to reinforce those beliefs.
Hes a world class player, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. I think Buffalo was a tough situation this year for everybody. When he got the opportunity to get into our room and play with Pavelski and Burns and some of those type of guys, he was re-energized.
I think thats what youre seeing. Youre seeing a guy thats excited about winning, has his passion back to come to the rink and compete, and was really excited for the playoffs.
Predictably, a raucous atmosphere greeted the Sharks at a sold-out Honda Center for the start of the first playoff series between the two California rivals since 2009.
Also as one might have expected, there was no feeling out process between the two teams in the first period. The Sharks and Ducks, true to their identity, combined for 27 hits after 20 minutes, with little room to make plays.
The Sharks came into Thursday with an 8-4 record in Game 1s over the last seven years, with four of those wins coming on the road. They were 1-2 in Anaheim in 2009, but won both of their games in Orange County this season.
The Sharks withstood an initial push from the Sharks in the first three minutes, with Burns hitting the post on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line four minutes into the game.
The Sharks could not capitalize on two first period power play tries. Tomas Hertl was denied by Gibson on two shots from right outside the crease, and Gibson later slid over in time to stop a Pavelski one-timer from a sharp angle.
The Sharks faced questions about their playoff readiness after they finished the regular season with a 1-4-1 record, which included less-than-inspiring results against Dallas and Minnesota at home last week.
The losses to the Stars and Wild cost the Sharks a chance at home ice advantage for the first round, as they finished third in the Pacific Division with 100 points, one less than the Ducks, who won five straight to finish the regular season.
I wasnt worried how we finished the season, DeBoer said. There were a few games there we could have won, ran out of a little bit of gas the last game.
I was more concerned about how Anaheim was playing. To (win) 10 out of 11 to finish the season the way they did was impressive. But Im a big believer that this is a brand new time of year.