Vancouver stomps San Jose 7-3 in Game Two

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 18: Goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks gets the puck out of the net as Joe Pavelski #8 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks skate away after a goal by the Vancouver Canucks in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on May 18, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Sharks 7-3. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In retrospect, probably should have held off writing an article about the Sharks penalty kill until after game two.

Vancouver's power play went 3 for 7 on the night, including a pair of beauties from the Sedin line, putting the game out of reach in the third period. The Canucks would go on to score four times in that fateful third, cementing San Jose's 2-0 series deficit after Daniel Sedin put home a pass from brother Henrik at the 11:41 mark of the third period.

Logan Couture had a brilliant move to open up the scoring, taking a nice chip pass from Dany Heatley as he drove middle to the net. Going forehand, backhand, and back to the forehand again, Couture slammed home the puck past Roberto Luongo to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead two and half minutes into the tilt.

The lead wouldn't last for long however, as Vancouver would come roaring back at the mid-period mark. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin played tic tac toe in the high slot with the Sharks defense scrambling, leading to a smart shot that just managed to squeeze under the blocker arm of Niemi. A mere thirty nine seconds later the Canucks would strike again as Christian Ehrhoff jumped into the play and executed a nice centering pass to find the increasingly dangerous Raffi Torres in front of the net for the goal.

San Jose would even the score before the end of the first, with Patrick Marleau banging home a loose puck in front of Roberto Luongo that held up due to video review.

The first period was an up and down affair for both clubs as scoring chances were traded with abandon throughout. The Sharks were counterpunching well and, outside of the ever dangerous Canucks blueline's ability to lead the rush and activate in the offensive zone (Christian Ehrhoff in particular, whose assist tonight was matched only by his assist on the Henrik Sedin's GWG in game one), looked to be able to hang with Vancouver.

The first half of the second period started off at a slow and manageable pace, something that San Jose will undoubtedly try to re-enact in HP Pavilion on Friday night. But midway through the third period the tides began to shift-- following a TV timeout the Canucks began to push the play, ringing a pair of shots off the post. The third time would be the charm for Vancouver however, with this play ultimately signaling the end of San Jose's game two opportunity to get back into the game.

On an innocent looking breakout that had the Sharks and Canucks both completed with their line changes moments before, Dan Hamhuis waited behind the net with the puck. Sending the puck up to Chris Higgins at the blueline, the entire Sharks unit overpursued that first outlet pass in the neutral zone, leaving a wide open hole on the far side that Bieksa jumped into as Marleau and Setoguchi allowed him to hit the center line with speed. Bieksa took the tape to tape pass on his stick and cruised into the Sharks zone unmolested, rifling a shot past Niemi to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead.

The Canucks wouldn't look back.

Recapping that third period is actually considered a felony in 47 states so here are some bullet points on all of the relevant material leading into game three:

  • Ben Eager's performance tonight likely earned him a trip to the press box for the rest of the postseason. Although Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan defended Eager after the game-- according to Dan Rosen, McLellan liked Eager's effort and didn't think he crossed the line-- I have to respectively disagree with that analysis. Eager is a good player who brings a lot of energy to the team when he's not taking bad penalties, but when he's taking bad penalties (and has a long history of doing so), that kind of stuff is going to kill you.
  • Eager's two minute boarding call at the end of the second period was one half step away from being a five minute major (and just as well could have been), his tripping penalty at 6:57 came in the neutral zone at a point in the game where that sort of play effectively ends San Jose's chances to win the game, and his post-goal antics with Roberto Luongo in the final minutes of the third were head scratching. After scoring a goal, cutting the deficit to a mere four goals with 2:23 left on the clock, Eager raises his hands above his head and lets out an audible whoop before trash talking Roberto Luongo who was lying in the crease. At the end of the clip you see Ian White skating up to him and touching his shoulder as if to say, "Come on man let's get going", but Eager wouldn't budge.
  • It's unfair to blame tonight's loss on Eager-- the entire team looked beaten following Bieksa's goal in the second period and stopped moving their feet-- but there seemed to be a disconnect in those final minutes. I'm not in the room right now, I can't tell you the vibe. But Eager's actions appeared to be a glorification of a personal success (scoring a goal) despite his personal struggles (taking penalties).
  • Patrick Marleau's fight with Kevin Bieksa was excellent to see. Although Bieksa won the fight handily (and displayed an anger face that Cal Lightman would have a field day with), that's a good bout for a variety of reasons. For starters, Marleau drops the gloves first against a bigger opponent who he has to figure is going to give him some good shots-- that's leadership. Secondly, although Marleau is clearly an important player for San Jose, I think I take the trade off of top pairing defenseman for top line forward. Bieksa was a man possessed tonight and getting him off the ice for five is a net gain for San Jose.
  • Going along with that, San Jose's top line is really the only one who has been consistent this entire series. The second line was a dud in game one, the third line has been ineffective throughout, but there's not much you can speak ill of when it comes to the top line. Joe Thornton has been magnificent in all facets of the game, Marleau is skating well, and while I think it's safe to say Devin Setoguchi can be much better than he has been, he still hasn't looked completely out of place when the cycle is going.
  • Probably have to toss Logan Couture in there as well. Although the second line as a whole hasn't been much to write home about, Couture has been making plays and generating offense nearly on his own.
  • The blueline is a hot mess without Jason Demers right now but after reviewing some tape, Kent Huskins hasn't looked as bad as you would expect him to be after missing two months and making his first postseason experience on the road against the Presidents' Trophy winners.
  • That being said, it goes without saying (the beginning of this sentence is weird) that Demers clearly makes the blueline better. Considering McLellan has him out of the lineup on the biggest stage this postseason, you have to figure the injury is more serious than a couple bumps and bruises. Hopefully he can gear up for game three.
  • After a whooping like this the hope is that getting embarrassed in the third period for the second straight game lights a fire under San Jose. I'd expect them to come out and play their best game of the series on Friday, but against the Canucks (and the Red Wings), if both teams bring their A games we're dealing with a coin flip.
  • Antti Niemi got shelled tonight but it's hard to hang much of it on him. You go with him in game three no question-- he's kept the Sharks in the game for nearly the entire series.
  • A lot of talk before the series about San Jose's forward depth being better than Vancouver's, but right now, you realize why the games aren't played on paper. I'm sure in someone's basement right now two guys are playing an RPG and San Jose is up 2-0 in this series.
  • The Sedin Twins have finally come alive. They're putting on an absolute show right now. While the majority of people here are probably going to scream for my head because of this statement, if you're a hockey fan you have to appreciate that. They're proving the doubters in the media wrong and proving why they deserved two straight Hart Trophy nominations.
  • It's time for San Jose to prove the doubters wrong on Friday night.
  • Before tonight's game we called this as close to a must-win as possible, and after tonight's performance, game three brings with it San Jose's season on the line. The stakes are too high to think a team could blow a 3-0 series lead again at this juncture. Game three should (and will) be approached as such by the team.
  • Rough seas right now to be certain.
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