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Blues blast late equalizer; Brown boosts Sharks in OT

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- After a tying goal in the final seconds,
an injured referee and an 18-minute delay to fix a bizarre hole in
the boards, Curtis Brown just wanted the San Jose Sharks' opener to
have a finish.

So he provided it, scoring on a rebound with 2:48 left in
overtime of the Sharks' 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues on
Thursday night.

Brown reached around a defenseman and tipped home rookie Matt
Carle's shot, triggering a bench-clearing celebration on the
boards. The Sharks' excitement was mixed with a healthy dose of
relief: With 81 games left to play, they hope every contest doesn't
require this much energy.

"That was one of the longer games I've ever been a part of,"
Brown said. "I don't think there's anything else they can throw at
us this season. That's one of the things, though. You're going to
have all kinds of distractions, and you've got to overcome them."

Joe Thornton had three assists in an auspicious start to the
season, and the Sharks appeared headed for a regulation victory
when newcomer Mark Bell scored on electric passes from Jonathan
Cheechoo and Thornton with 5:42 left in the third period.

But Bill Guerin forced overtime with 5.6 seconds left in his St.
Louis debut, tipping home Keith Tkachuk's pass after the Blues
pulled goaltender Manny Legace for an extra attacker.

There was plenty of non-scoring action in the third period as
well. Referee Rob Martell left the game after being hit in the left
eye by one of Michalek's shots during a power play in the third
period, and the game was significantly delayed moments later when
Cheechoo crashed into the boards, putting a perfectly round hole in
them.

Milan Michalek scored two goals during 5-on-3 advantages on
assists from Thornton, who got an early start on his defense of his
MVP award and scoring championship from last season. Carle also
scored for the Sharks, and Vesa Toskala recovered from two soft
first-period goals to make 31 saves.

"I'm happy for the newer guys who contributed a lot," San Jose
coach Ron Wilson said. "That kind of welcomes them into the Shark
family."

Dan Hinote, Jamal Mayers and Lee Stempniak scored for the Blues,
who are winless in their last nine openers -- the longest streak in
the NHL.

But after finishing last overall in the league with just 57
points, St. Louis clearly is markedly improved. Veterans Radek
Dvorak, Guerin, Legace and Hinote debuted with St. Louis, while
Martin Rucinsky, Jamie Rivers and Doug Weight officially returned
to the club.

"We can walk out of here with our heads high," said Legace,
who made 29 saves. "We had a couple of breakdowns, but we're right
there."

Hinote quieted the sellout Shark Tank crowd just 36 seconds in
with a goal on his first shift with the Blues after six seasons in
Colorado.

Michalek, the second-line wing who led the NHL with seven
preseason goals, got his first of the regular season on a sharp
pass from Thornton early in the second period. Thornton then
whipped a pass off Michalek's stationary stick and into the net,
putting San Jose ahead 3-2.

"They have a great power play, and Joe is the best player on
the planet right now," Guerin said. "He can put on a clinic out
there, if you give him a chance."

Stempniak tied it 7 minutes later, deflecting Guerin's shot from
the high slot.

The Sharks went back ahead when Cheechoo, who had two assists,
adroitly poked the puck away from defenseman Eric Brewer to set up
a 3-on-1 break. The Sharks' new top line exchanged criss-cross
passes before Bell buried his first goal since arriving in an
offseason trade from Chicago.

"That's the wrong line to give it up to," Legace said.

Game notes
Blues owner Dave Checketts, general manager Larry Pleau and
new team president John Davidson watched the game together in the
press box. ... The Blues begin the season with a three-game
California road swing before their home opener Oct. 12 against
Boston. ... Rookie D Marc-Edouard Vlasic got a high-pressure
assignment in his NHL debut, joining the Sharks' 5-on-3
penalty-killing team late in the second period. Vlasic held his own
as San Jose killed the Blues' two-man advantage for 107 seconds,
eliciting a standing ovation.