SAN JOSE -- Brad Stuart was brought back to San Jose because the Sharks needed a hard-hitting defenseman, and Saturday afternoon he did just that.
Stuart flattened Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog at 15:35 of the first period, setting in motion a series of events that sparked the Sharks to a 4-0 victory that kept their record unblemished four games into this abbreviated season.
Once again it was Patrick Marleau leading the offense with two goals for his fourth multiple-goal game to open the season -- something that hadn't been done in the NHL since 1917. And backup goalie Thomas Greiss made 24 saves to earn his first career shutout.
But it was Stuart's hit that was the game's key moment.
"I fully expected him to pick his head up, but he didn't," Stuart said of the 21-year-old Landeskog. "At that point, he was pretty vulnerable, but I just tried to make a good, solid hit. I'm not trying to hurt anyone or anything, but when a guy doesn't see you coming, it's going to look pretty bad."
Before Landeskog could get up, 6-foot-5, 234-pound Colorado defenseman Ryan O'Byrne sought Stuart out and was swinging away. Both players got five-minute fighting majors, but O'Byrne drew an extra four minutes in penalties -- two for instigating, two for fighting with a face mask -- and the automatic 10-minute misconduct.
Marleau scored his goals on those two power plays. In the second period, Joe Thornton added a third power-play goal at 2:32, and rookie defenseman Matt Irwin scored the first of his career at 17:05 to finish off the scoring in a game that got chippy again in the final minutes, as might be expected.
Replays showed that Stuart hit Landeskog with his shoulder, but the initial point of contact was unclear. If the NHL sees it as Landeskog's head, the play could be reviewed for supplemental discipline.
Neither Stuart nor Sharks coach Todd McLellan said they expected that to happen.
"His feet didn't leave the ice. His arm was down. He led with the shoulder and he got all of the body," McLellan said. "In my opinion, it's a clean hit."
Landeskog didn't disagree
"I thought it was a hard hit, but I thought it was a clean hit," said the left wing, who went to the locker room after the hit, but returned for the second period. "I was kind of reaching for the puck and didn't brace myself enough and stepped up."
Avalanche Coach Joe Sacco, however, looked at it differently.
"It looked like it was a direct blow to the head. It looked like he targeted the head. That was the first point of contact," Sacco said in what sounded like an invitation for the league to review the play.
Stuart said he had no problem with O'Byrne going after him -- "You hit the captain, a young kid, you've got to expect somebody's coming." As things turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened to San Jose.
Twenty-nine seconds into the power plays that followed, Marleau took a pass from Joe Pavelski and beat Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov with a quick backhand at 16:09. Then, at 17:17, Thornton slid the puck across the crease to Marleau, who punched it in for his NHL-best eighth goal of the season.
Sacco replaced Varlamov with Jean-Sebastien Giguere to start the third period, and he stopped all 17 shots he faced.
Those two goals linked Marleau in the NHL history books with Cy Denneny, who also had four multiple-goal games for the original Ottawa Senators 62 years before Marleau was born.
With two goals in each game, is Marleau lamenting the fact he's fallen short of a hat trick each time?
"It'd be nice, but I'm not going to get greedy," he said. "I'll take them as they come, trying to do the same thing, trying to work and going to those same areas. My linemates have been playing great, too."
McLellan didn't completely buy into the idea that Marleau can't keep this pace up.
"I don't know if he can keep scoring two goals every night, but he can keep his play up, the way it's been," McLellan said. "He's been skating extremely well, he's got a ton of confidence, he's prepared to shoot the pucks, he's engaged physically. It's a great reward for him."
"I was thinking what celebration I should do and the next thing you know, the guy hit my stick," Gomez said. "It's just one of those things, the guy got me right at the end."
"It was great. I just had to make the first save and they took care of the rest," he said. "They blocked a lot of shots and that made my life easier today. Scored two goals and that made me feel more comfortable, too."
Vancouver (2-1-1) at Sharks (4-0),
5 p.m. CSNCA