SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Brad Stuart was brought back to San Jose because the Sharks needed a hard-hitting defenceman, 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 offence 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, 6-5, 234-pound Colorado defenceman 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 defenceman 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 contact appeared to be the head. If the NHL sees it that way, 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."
-- San Jose Mercury News