May 21, 2011
The San Jose Sharks held on against a late Vancouver Canucks comeback in the third period of game 3 in the Western Conference Finals. The 2010-2011 NHL Presidents Trophy winners were looking to all but seal their place in the Stanley Cup Finals with a win in San Jose to move 3-0 up in the series. However, a flying start to the game from the Sharks put paid to those hopes with the home side capitalizing well on power plays early on. With just over two minute’s played, Maxim Lapierre was in the penalty box for roughing and the Sharks took advantage with Joe Thornton flicking the puck to Patrick Marleau who was open in front of goal and he put it beyond Roberto Luongo in the Canucks goal.
San Jose, who dominated the shot count 16-8 in the first period with Luongo making a number of saves, doubled their lead less than five minutes later on another power play. Vancouver’s Christian Ehrhoff was in forced off the ice and Ryan Clowe scored past Luongo with a backhand shot on the rebound after Luongo had made the initial save. Following such a fast start, you sensed the Sharks could go on and stretch their lead before the end of the first period, and they did just that after seventeen minutes when Marleau and Thornton linked up once again. Thornton played Marleau in for a break towards Luongo’s goal and the Canadian swept the puck past the Canucks goaltender for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
In the second period, the Canucks indiscipline continued as they handed the Sharks two early power plays which they failed to utilize. Both Luongo and Antti Niemi made great saves throughout the second period and the home side were forced to relay on goaltender Niemi at the end of the second period however as they presented the Canucks with two glorious opportunities through two 5-on-3 power plays. Niemi was alert and made the saves when required to maintain the Sharks 3-0 advantage going into the final period.
It didn’t take long before Niemi was beaten in the third period however, one minute and nine seconds to be exact. Alexandre Burrows whipped the puck past Niemi in the Sharks goal after the Canucks man had collected a Dan Boyle clearance. Boyle restored San Jose’s three goal lead however five minutes later with another power play goal as the Sharks used their 5-on-3 advantage, assisted by Marleau. You could have forgiven the home crowd at the HP Pavilion for believing that goal signalled the end of the game as a contest but with just less than ten minutes to play in the game, Jamie McGinn rammed Canucks’ Aaron Rome into the boards in no uncertain manner to receive a game misconduct and hand the Canucks a five minute power play. There was debate about whether McGinn’s hit warranted the heavy penalty but it provided the visiting Canucks with new hope of getting back into the game.
With just over six minutes to play, Henrik Sedin drew three Sharks players over to his position on the left hand side of the ice allowing Dan Hamhuis to find himself open. Sedin slipped the puck across the ice for Hamhuis who fired it past Niemi. Eighteen seconds remained of the McGinn penalty when Kevin Bieksa slapped the puck through a number of bodies and past Niemi to bring the score back up to 4-3 with three minutes and fifty-six seconds remaining in the game. The Canucks, pulled Luongo as they went searching for the game tying goal but the Sharks managed to hang on to their 4-3 win and get themselves right back into the series at 2-1 down with game 4 to come on Sunday at the HP Pavilion.
After conceding three goals on power plays and giving up ten penalties overall in the game, Vancouver coach Alain Vignealut said “I thought we were pretty disciplined, so if I were to comment on what I think of the penalties, I’d get a pretty big fine.” Whatever, Vignealut thinks of the decisions however; the Canucks will need to pick themselves up for game 4. Vignealut may be without both Rome and Ehrhoff for that game though after both left game 3 with injuries.
Meanwhile, for the Sharks they will feel they deserved to win this game but that feeling will also be mixed with relief after the late scare with the Canucks pulling to within one goal. Coach Todd McLellan was obviously delighted with the win and he hopes his team continue to play with the mindset of every game being a game 7.