Sharks win vital game three, trail series 2-1
They say that a team is never in trouble in a series until they lose a game at home. Trailing the Vancouver Canucks two games to none in the Western Conference Finals, the Sharks surely didn't want to put themselves in an even more difficult position.
Indeed, the Sharks did start the game the same way they started game seven against Detroit; they had their legs, they skated hard and they took hold of the game.
"Obviously the crowd gives you a bit of a lift but the way we played was just a lot of energy. We skated very well, got some 2 on 1's, some breakaways, which was very different from the last two games," Clowe said. "It was us putting pucks in places where we could get them back, executing, the power play was sharp early. I thought it was more of us just playing our game, the jump and energy we had was different than the last few games."
As a result of their dominance in possession, the Sharks were able to draw Vancouver into ten minor penalties in the game. The power play had really been one of the only things working for San Jose through the first two games of the series, converting at a 46% rate after tonight. Three out of the four total goals San Jose scored tonight came from the man advantage, proving to be the difference in the game.
Two of those goals came in the first period, but the most important score came in the third. 6:46 in Joe Thornton, who had three assists on the night, found Dan Boyle on the point. Boyle put a low shot through traffic that beat Roberto Luongo five-hole.
"That power play was the difference at the end of the night," stated Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
Thornton and Boyle weren't the only Sharks stars to have big nights offensively. Patrick Marleau chipped in three points of his own including a power play goal four minutes in to start the scoring and a beautiful breakaway goal in the second.
Marleau, who has been the focus of much of the hockey world after some less than complimentary words dolled out by now analyst Jeremey Roenick, has been on a scoring spree since Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals. Marleau now has five goals in the last four games, four of which have come in this series against Vancover. He was, however, quick to point out that his increased statistical production after Roenick's criticism was nothing more than a cooincidence.
"Things are just starting to go in. I'm playing with some pretty good players, obviously the best passer in the League," Marleau said while nodding to Thornton on his left. "I'm getting to some good areas, he's finding me, and pucks are starting to go in."
The offense wasn't the whole story tonight, as Vancouver had seven power plays of their own during the game. During a stretch in the second, the Sharks were forced to kill 4:05 straight in penalties, 1:55 of which were of the 5 on 3 variety. For the majority of that sequence the Sharks looked to Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Douglas Murray to come up big in a critical situation.
They were up to the task. Although Pavelski had trouble winning draws, the three Sharks on the ice played some of the most determined hockey seen from anyone this postseason. Vlasic made some crucial plays of his own, but was quick to compliment his fellow penalty killers after the game had ended.
"The two guys with you out there with me on the 5 on 3 were diving all around me," Vlasic said. "I just had to be out there to pick up the loose pucks."
Antti Niemi, who had another impressive showing in nets for San Jose, agreed with Vlasic regarding the penalty kill's efficiency.
"I thought we were really compact with our three guys there, and we wanted to keep them on assignment," Niemi said. "We did a good job of that. Most important thing [for me] is to know which guys are on the ice and understand what they're trying to do.
Vancouver did end up getting two power play goals on the evening, both of them coming on a five-minute major penalty to Jamie McGinn. McGinn, who had already received a boarding major this postseason against Los Angeles in the first round, tracked Aaron Rome through the offensive zone a leveled him in the corner. The legality of the hit was debated, but the severity was not. Rome was down on the ice for what seemed like an eternity, struggling to get up and skate off.
Rome wasn't McGinn's only victim of the evening; former Shark Christian Ehrhoff left the game in the second period as a result of another McGinn check. When asked about the possibility of Ehrhoff or Rome missing the next game, Canucks Coach Alan Vigneault was short, but to the point.
"Yes," Vigneault informed the media. "Both."
Despite the fact that the fourth line accounted for three penalties tonight-- Desjardins had back to back penalties in the middle of the second that led to the aforementioned 5 on 3's, and Jamie McGinn had a five minute boarding major which put the Sharks in an uncomfortable position for the last eight minutes of the game-- the fourth line contributed positively for the first time all series when they weren't in the penalty box. McLellan chose to scratch stalwart Scott Nichol along with maligned forward Ben Eager and rookie Benn Ferriero in favor of Andrew Desjardins, Jamal Mayers and the Jamie McGinn, with the trio accounting for some notable scoring chances in the Canucks zone.
"It's an emotional game. When you come out hard and push the pace the other team gets back on their heels. They did that to us [in Vancouver] and we did that to them tonight," Desjardins said. "That's how it works. It's very emotional. You get frustrated, a couple of times that's what happened, and we take advantage of that. It was huge for us."
The Sharks undoubtedly made a step in the right direction in game three. However, with a 3-1 series deficit a real possibility for San Jose headed back to Vancouver, every game is just as important as the one which preceded it.
Something that Sharks Captain Joe Thornton stressed following the game.
"Every game for us is game seven right now."