WCF Game 3: Vancouver Canucks lose composure with 11 penalties in game 3, San Jose holds serve with 4-3 win on home ice

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Saturday, May 21, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Western Conference Finals Game 3 San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks Devin Setoguchi driving Roberto Luongo

Jamie McGinn battles Aaron Rome in front of Vancouver net in second period

Western Conference Finals Game 3 San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau scores opening goal on Vancouver in first period

The Sharks breathed much needed life into their Western Conference Final playoff hopes holding on late for a 4-3 win over Vancouver. The Canucks lost their composure and took a string of ill-advised penalties in all three periods. Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe scored while on the man advantage in the first period, completing a streak of 5 straight power play goals in their first 5 opportunities against Vancouver in this series. Marleau added his second goal of the game capitalizing on a blocked Edler shot and a breakaway, and Dan Boyle added another power play goal in the third to earn the critical momentum building victory.

The vaunted Canucks defense was seldom tested in the first two games. While San Jose got the puck dep and ground down Los Angeles and Detroit blue liners, the Canucks defenseman were able to reach loose pucks and move play up ice almost at will. From the first shift of game 3 it was evident there was a sea change on the ice. San Jose’s second line of Clowe-Couture-Heatley got the puck deep in the offensive zone and created much sustained pressure.

A high hit by agitator Maxim Lapierre on Ian White 200 feet from his own goal took the Sedins off the ice and put the Sharks power play on the attack. The Canucks allowed Joe Thornton to set up behind the net, and he proceeded to pick them apart. In a battle in front, Marleau gained inside position on former Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, then allowed Ehrhoff to release and approach Thornton. Vancouver didn’t attempt to move Marleau or Setoguchi out from in front of the net, and a hard Thornton pass was banged home by Marleau. After earning the series clincher against Detroit, it was Marleau’s fourth straight game with a goal.

Less than three minutes later the Sedin’s came off and the penalty kill unit went back on the ice. This time defenseman Chrisitan Ehrhoff accidentally got his stick up on Torrey Mitchell, drawing blood and a 4 minute high sticking double minor. After a quality scoring chance down low by the first power play unit, San Jose’s second unit came out and put on a Sedin-like passing clinic with the man advantage. A series of 4 quick passes were initiated with a Dany Heatley backhanded flip to the center of the ice. Couture immediately moved the puck back to Ian White on the point, and White quickly moved a d-to-d pass at the top to Boyle. With penalty killers still working to get into position, Boyle tee’d up a hard slapshot that Luongo struggled to control down low. An unchecked Ryane Clowe on the doorstep backhanded the puck under Luongo’s pads.

The shifts after a goal or a power play goal can gauge the momentum of a period. San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan discussed possible changes to his lines, or a “revamping” his top three scoring lines had they struggled early in game 3. That did not happen. What he did change up was inserting young forwards Jamie McGinn and Andrew Desjardins on the 4th line to play with Jamal Mayers. While the top 3 lines had a lot of time down the stretch to get in a rythmn and develop chemistry, the fourth line was an odd jumble neccessitated by Scott Nichol’s 20-game injury absence late in the season. McGinn was targeted as a speedy third liner with offensive instincts, but with only 1 goal and 5 assists in 49 games played, McGinn lost his regular place in the lineup after the mid-season additions of Ben Eager and Kyle Wellwood. Andrew Desjardins, an agitating member of the ‘Crazed Rats’ line in AHL-affiliate Worcester, was a late season replacement for Scott Nichol. An effective forward whose first NHL goal and assist were highlight-reel worthy, Desjardins did not see playoff starts in the first two rounds in favor of other veteran contributors.

While the fourth line could be expected to add a quality 5-10 minutes, play the body and take some of the pressure off the top lines, Friday they played a critical role in all three zones. After 240-pound defenseman Douglas Murray steamrolled a Canuck to keep the puck in, McGinn-Desjardins-Mayers began to grind down Vancouver down low. On their next shift with Setoguchi still on the ice, Desjardins and McGinn again got the puck deep and fought to keep possession of it. Asked what he wanted to show in his first playoff start, Desjardins told Sharkspage he wanted to create energy and play smart. “Try to create energy, and create offense off the energy. Try to finish your checks, try to control the puck, not get scored on, and just to be a smart player,” Desjardins said. “Basically when you have the puck down low, just hold on to it.” An awkward McGinn hit on Christian Ehrhoff in the first period apparently injured the defenseman’s left shoulder. He did not return to the game.

After Patrick Marleau blocked a point shot by Alexander Edler and scored on the resulting breakaway, the physical play picked up for both teams. Ryan Kesler left his feet trying to hit Logan Couture behind the end boards. Then he lined Couture up for a hit along the halfwall and delivered a punch to the head after the play. Kesler delivered a similar punch to Couture after a hit in game 2, neither were called. At the start of the second period, the fourth line again was making an impact down low. This time it was Desjardins and Mayers creating a sustained forecheck. After defenseman Niclas Wallin fired a shot on goal, Desjardins was taken down hard by a pair of Canucks in front of the net. After an offensive zone faceoff win McGinn was taken down in front of the net when Aaron Rome got a stick between his legs. It was the first successful penalty kill by Vancouver against San Jose in the 2011 playoffs, but again the impact of the 4th line was being felt.

It was a fourth line that had changed throughout this series. Ben Eager and Scott Nichol were members of the fourth line switched out after game 2, and Benn Ferriero was a fourth liner switched out after game 1. When speaking of depth and the San Jose Sharks, it is a depth across the board. From the top three scoring lines, to a group of about 8 forwards who may be utilized and may make an impact on the fourth line, to the defensive corps and defensive replacements Kent Huskins and puck moving rookie Justin Braun. Even in net, Antero Niittymaki is a proven veteran replacement and emergency goaltender Thomas Greiss should have been playing in the NHL instead of Europe this season. The Sharks are prepped well for the war of attrition, as well as the playoff war against the Canucks.

Game notes keep pointing to McGinn. Later in the period, defenseman Kevin Bieksa misplayed a pass back to the point. His defensive partner Dan Hamhuis lined up Jamal Mayers for a big hit as Douglas Murray poked the puck up ice. McGinn blew by Bieksa and created a 2-on-0 with Desjardins. They forced Bieksa to take a hooking penalty and face the mob of neoprene teal and orange fans adjacent to the penalty box. Bieksa took a second penalty later in the period. The Sharks could have pressed that furthur, but they got into penalty trouble of their own at the end of the second.

Desjardins took a holding the stick call at 14:27, before Joe Thornton took a holding the stick call of his own at 15:01. The Canucks would have a 5-on-3 for 1:26, a golden opportunity to get back into the game. Instead, Niemi made a point blank save on Burrows, and point shots by Sami Salo were blocked by Murray and another missed the net wildly. Salo registered 1 shot on goal in 24:30 of ice time. 2 missed the net, and apparently 6 were blocked. After Murray’s block on Salo down 2 men, Pavelski blocked a Salo shot of his own. After the play was frozen, Murray and Pavelski fist bumped for a mini-pk celebration.

After the Sharks killed off the bulk of the 5-on-3 and got the puck deep, Ryan Kesler broke it out of his own zone along the left wing. As he exited the box, Desjardins hooked Kesler and he was directed right back in to the bin with a tripping call. It was a legitimate penalty, but Kesler embellished the call kicking his legs back on the play and looked like he was diving head first into a pool. It was not the only embellishment of the net, as several Canucks did half rolls or eyes looking up at the ceiling maneuvers after incidental contact. Referees Brad Watson and Dan O’Rourke called both teams heavily, but any way it shook out there were going to be 2 unhappy teams. As Desjardins headed back to his seat in the penalty box, Joe Thornton gave him a fist bump, acknowledging his effect on the first half of the game while still trying to settle down and keep him from becoming too emotional.

Asked how he wanted to approach his first playoff game after a penalties dominated the Sharks loss in game 2, Desjardins said it would be a team effort towards discipline. “I think that is an overall thing after the last game,” Desjardins said. “We have to try to keep disciplined and try to work towards that.”

This time Vancouver would have a 30 second 5-on-3 powerplay. Given the Sedin’s ability to slice and dice NHL penalty kills, it was a turning point in the game. Each clear in the first 5-on-3 resulted in a loud roar from the sellout crowd in HP Pavilion. On the second 5-on-3, Vlasic ate up nearly 15 seconds taking out his man and laying on top of the puck. The crowd erupted after a clutch Niemi save as both penalties wound off the clock.

In tennis, a flat well-placed serve can create aces. Free points. There would be no free points in game 3 for San Jose. Kevin Bieksa turned the corner in the Sharks zone, and shoveled the puck in front of the net. Alexander Burrows jumped into the play and buried it. 3-1. On a later shift, Ryane Clowe tried to line up Bieksa for a hit along the end boards. Bieksa jumped out of the way to his left, but Clowe ran smack into the head of a curling Logan Couture. Couture left the game and underwent the concussion protocols mandated by the league, but he noted that he did not suffer a concussion.

At times in each period the Vancouver Canucks lost their composure and took bad penalties. It was Alexander Burrows’s turn in the third period. Less than a minute after Ryan Kessler took a tripping call, Burrows leg whipped Antti Niemi as he tried to pressure the Sharks on the forecheck. The Sharks would convert their third power play of the game. After Dan Boyle rang a shot off the post, the next sequence saw a give-and-go between Marleau and Boyle at the point. With Heatley creating a screen in front, Boyle fired a shot that beat Luongo 5-hole. Luongo laid back in the net in frustration after the goal.

The Sharks have not done anything easy in the 2011 playoffs. Whether it was a comeback from a 4-0 deficit and three overtime wins against Los Angeles in the first round, or giving up a 3-games-to-0 lead and winning a game 7 against Detroit in the second round. Game 3 against Vancouver would be no different. Up 4-to-1, the Sharks would have to kill off a 5 minute major penalty on Jamie McGinn in the final 8 and a half minutes of play.

Alexander Burrows broke into the Sharks zone, but was forced wide by Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell got his stick out, resulting in a low percentage shot easily stopped by Niemi. Defenseman Kent Huskins moved the puck from behind the net up the wall and it was again misplayed by Bieksa. This time Bieksa went off for a line change allowing Roberto Luongo to play it in his own zone. As Luongo had his back to the ice, Jamie McGinn took several hard strides across the offensive zone anticipating where Luongo would play the puck. Luongo did not look over his should once, instead he telegraphed his pass to defenseman Aaron Rome effectively hanging him out to dry. Rome himself did not have his head on a swivel. He did not see how quickly McGinn was bearing down on him, and he was hammered up against the plexiglass in the corner. Rome was motionless on the ice for several minutes, and he had to be helped to the locker room.

After killing off a pair of 5-on-3′s against the Vancouver power play in the second period, the Sharks would have to kill off a 5 minute major at the end of the third. The Canucks looked lethargic early. Jamal Mayers blocked a shot in front, and Douglas Murray had his helmet ripped off his head by Kesler after the Canucks alternate captain was hit along the boards. Henrik Sedin was finally able to create on the power play, holding on to possession long enough for Dan Hamuis to get into an open spot and bury a 1-timer. 4-2 Sharks. The Sharks were able to kill off the first 2:16 without as much urgency from Vancouver, and it was a similar story for the next 2:25. All it takes is a faceoff win or a good bounce to create offense, and Vancouver received both as the 5 minute major was winding down. Mason Raymond won a clear offensive zone draw back to Bieksa, and a Bieksa point shot deflected off the foot of Ian White and by Antti Niemi. On the PK, defenseman are taught to have their feet perpendicular to the net to prevent such deflections. Although White’s foot was in the right place, the shot had enough heft on it to travel for the most part on it’s original course.

Despite a furious Vancouver comeback attempt late, the Sharks were able to collapse down low and ride out the 4-3 win. Ryane Clowe narrowly missed an empty net goal on a diving block by Alexander Edler. To continue the tennis metaphor, each team has held serve on home ice to this point. San Jose will have to continue to outwork Vancouver and mainting discipline for that to take place in game 4.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

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