Heatley leads Sharks past Blue Jackets, 6-3


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Dany Heatley made quite a first impression on his new fans.

Heatley scored three goals in his home debut for San Jose to lead the Sharks to a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

“It was a great night,” Heatley said. “The crowd was great from the introductions on. As a group we played real well tonight, we skated well, forechecked well and got rewarded for it.”

Heatley, the big goal scorer acquired last month from Ottawa, got a loud ovation in pregame introductions before San Jose’s home opener. The cheers only got louder with his two goals in the second period and a penalty shot in the third that sent scores of hats flying onto the ice and began chants of “Dan-y Heat-ley! Dan-y Heat-ley!”

“For this crowd to cheer his name, he’s found a nice home here,” center Joe Thornton said. “I’m sure they’re going to see him raise his hands quite a bit this year.”

Dan Boyle added a goal and two assists, and Thornton tied a franchise record with four assists for the Sharks, who lost two of three on the road to open the season.

Rick Nash, Jason Chimera and Raffi Torres scored for the Blue Jackets, who opened the season with two straight victories for the first time.

Columbus has won once in 17 trips to San Jose.

“Their team played hungrier and desperate hockey,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We matched it for 35 minutes but we couldn’t match it for 60. We couldn’t carry it through.”

There were three new banners hanging at the Shark Tank for winning the Presidents’ Trophy, the top seed in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division title. But there was no ceremony held for the raising as the Sharks aren’t exactly looking to celebrate last season after it ended with a first-round exit against Anaheim.

But the Sharks gave their fans plenty to cheer about in an action-packed second period that featured four San Jose goals and a pair of fights.

After Boyle tied the game with his goal, Heatley got into the action by making a strong move from behind the net before beating Steve Mason with a shot into the top of the net.

“That’s what we got him for,” Boyle said. “He certainly delivered tonight. It’s great for him to get off to a great start at home.”

The sellout crowd really got fired up by the fights. First it was Ryane Clowe taking on Columbus’ Michael Blunden, ripping off his helmet and landing a few good shots. Then 25 seconds later, San Jose’s Frazer McLaren got into a long duel with Derek Dorsett with each player landing solid hits before they tired.

After Chimera tied it at 2 for Columbus with a big blast that beat Evgeni Nabokov from the top of the circle, the Sharks answered with goals from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Heatley in the final two minutes of the period to take control.

Heatley’s second came after a perfect up-ice feed from Boyle. Heatley settled a rolling puck and beat Mason with a shot between the legs while falling to the ice with 11.5 seconds left in the period, making it 4-2.

“You can’t play sloppy defense against a team like this or they will pick you apart,” Nash said.

Heatley has scored four goals in two games, providing the Sharks with another scoring threat to put on a line with Thornton. The plan appears to be working out early in the season as Thornton has eight assists through four games.

Heatley also had an assist on Devin Setoguchi’s goal that knocked out Mason 1:34 into the third. Heatley was on the ice for all of San Jose’s goals.

“He’s fitting in just fine now,” Thornton said. “People were wondering when we would connect. I think he’s fitting in fine now.”