Penalties dominate Game 3, but Sharks do just enough to win
The game had the flow of California's Highway 101, that slim corridor connecting Silicon Valley to San Francisco and parts beyond. Which is to say, unless we're talking 3 a.m. on a holiday weekend -- and only then -- it was not a game that flowed very freely at all, Friday's Game 3 of the Western finals between the Sharks and Canucks.
Interrupting a seemingly non-stop parade to the penalty box by both teams was just enough good hockey from the hometown Sharks to squeeze out a 4-3 win at HP Pavilion. They still trail the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 set for Sunday at the Shark Tank.
A total of 17 power plays were included in this one, 10 for the Sharks. They cashed in on three, while the Canucks did on two, and there's your difference in the good old hockey game.
Patrick Marleau has now scored goals in four successive postseason games since being called "gutless" on national TV by a former teammate, Jeremy Roenick. The Sharks' veteran put two by Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and assisted on Dan Boyle's game-winner at 6:46 of the third period.
The fact that Boyle's long slap shot, nearing the expiration of a 5-on-3 Sharks power play, was the game-winner might be the most surprising part of the whole night. The Canucks seemed like they'd just finished licking the stamp to put on a mailed-in performance when San Jose 's Jamie McGinn committed a foolish boarding penalty on Vancouver 's Aaron Rome with 7:38 left.
McGinn was given a 5-minute major, meaning the Canucks would have all those minutes with which to score as many goals as they could muster. They got two.
When Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa beat Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with a long slap shot, it was suddenly a 4-3 game with 3:56 still left on the clock. Previously, teammate Dan Hamhuis had made it 4-2.
But this game wouldn't have been complete without another penalty, and Bieksa took it with 51 seconds left. Bieksa was forced to tug on Ryane Clowe's sweater with a stick, after Clowe came free with it just outside of the Sharks' blue line and plenty of unobstructed ice ahead.
That was that, even though Vancouver did still get a fairly decent shot on net in the final 15 seconds, with Luongo off for the extra skater.
San Jose had 38 shots in the game -- and 19 of them on the power play. Eleven of Vancouver 's 30 shots also came on the power play. While lots of shots can make for a fun, exciting game, this one really wasn't because of its overall "half-court" nature. These Stanley Cup playoffs have been characterized by a back-and-forth, free-flowing appeal, but the stop-and-go aspect from having too many penalties were a drag.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan couldn't give a hoot, of course, as long as his team comes out on top. While he needs to figure out a way to stop players such as McGinn and Ben Eager (a healthy scratch, after his Avery-like display in Game 2) from costing his team dearly in third periods from a lack of discipline, the rest of his squad did solid work for the most part.
The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, were limited to one point and three shots in the game. Canucks center Ryan Kesler had his first poor outing in a while (no points, one shot, though 70-percent success on faceoffs), and the Canucks also must now worry about the health of offensive defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who left in the first period and didn't return from injury.
The Sharks got a medical scare themselves when rookie standout Logan Couture had to leave from what looked like a head injury in the second period. Couture, however, returned in the third.
Marleau was the unquestioned best player on the night, with the three points and seven shots on net. Captain Joe Thornton wasn't bad either, with three assists.
We now have a series, so get there early for Game 4. Even on a Sunday, traffic on the 101 can be a you-know-what.