Canucks jump on weary Sharks
This was sort of a typical Game 1 affair in that both sides played hard, but not with the same sense of immediacy that much of this spring's playoff tournament has wrought. After all, the Sharks came in off a dramatic Game 7 win over Detroit and the Canucks also had Game 7 success in the first round and a hard fought six-game set that they'd closed out on the road in Nashville six days earlier.
Oh, there was some hitting and several nice saves by goaltenders Antti Niemi and Roberto Luongo. Both had gaffes as well, with their puckhandling failing them and leading to a 1-1 second period tie. The visiting Sharks went ahead on a power play goal by Patrick Marleau -- a waist-high deflection of a Dan Boyle point shot. Conversely, the Canucks went 0 for 3 with the man advantage, so the Sharks' special teams contributed to a 2-1 lead that held up for 40 minutes. Niemi made 24 saves on 25 shots, adding to the "little bit of everything" feel to the first two periods.
The game had the feel that it was there for the taking -- in either direction. Whoever came out of the dressing room and raised the work rate had a good chance to succeed. On this night, that turned out to be the home team. The Canucks upped the tempo and the Sharks had no answer. Vancouver's top line, comprised of the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, had a 20-minute segment of down low dominance that they hadn't enjoyed since midway through the first round. Henrik Sedin scored the game-winner after Kevin Bieksa had jumped up into the play from his point position and finished a nice feed from Burrows to knot the game.
The Sharks had very few chances in the third and they were on their heels. They looked fatigued -- mentally and physically. As a team in the third period, they turned the puck over too many times, which is a sign of the mind getting tired. Then they suddenly couldn't contain the twins and were out of position defensively through the final frame, portending physical exhaustion. Niemi finished with 35 saves and battled in the blue paint as he always does. But there really wasn't enough energy within the group to stop the inevitable -- a Sedin led comeback and a 1-0 Canucks series lead.
Expect a much more spirited affair on Wednesday in Game 2.