Western Conference Finals Game 3 – Late comeback upended by Dustin Byfuglien goal in overtime

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Saturday, May 22, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

For the second time in three games, the Sharks carried the bulk of the play and lost to an opportunistic Chicago Blackhawks team in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. 6-foot-4, 257-pound converted defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored his second game winning goal of the series en route to a 3-2 overtime win at the United Center.

The Sharks outshot Chicago 46 to 38, 88 to 60 when blocked and missed shots are factored in, but Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi played his best game of the series stopping 44 of 46 shots against. He was solid against a surging San Jose side in the third period, and even better in overtime. A Kent Huskins slapshot deflected off his mask, quick Malhotra and Couture rebound attempts were denied. Murray and Setoguchi shots from farther out were smothered down low. Patrick Marleau fought his way through 2 stick checks to take the puck to the net, losing possession shortly before getting a shot on goal.

The Sharks outshot Chicago 11-5 in overtime, but a defensive breakdown in the San Jose zone provided the Blackhakws an opportunity to end the game and they capitalized. Brian Campbell denied a clearing attempt at the blueline, and fired the puck down low behind the net to checking line center Dave Bolland. Scott Nichol put a body on him, but Bolland was able to get eyes on a driving Byfuglien in front of the net. An unchecked Byfuglien split three Sharks players to the slot, and he buried a quick shot high in the middle of the net before Evgeni Nabokov even turned around.

It is only the second overtime win for Chicago in these playoffs, the first coming in a 5-4 effort on April 24th. It is also only Chicago’s third 1-goal win of the playoffs, with two of the narrow victories coming in this series against San Jose. The Sharks have played 5 overtime games in the postseason, with a 4-1 record, and this is their tenth 1-goal decision (6-4 record).

The Sharks experienced a massive power play outage again for the second time in this series. After converting 1-of-1 power plays in game 2, the Sharks have only scored twice on 11 opportunities (18%) in games 1 and 3. Dustin Byfuglien and Dave Bolland took critical tripping penalties late in the third period on Friday night, but the Sharks could not capitalize to tie the game. Instead a Dan Boyle point shot created rebound opportunities for Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. Marleau found enough room short side to punch home the tying goal with 4:23 left.

In addition to marking Joe Thorton defensively and assisting on the game winning goal, Dave Bolland also added his first goal of the series. After blocking a Dan Boyle point shot, he converted a slick backhand-to-forehand move wide around Evgeni Nabokov for the go-ahead goal in the third period. Patrick Sharp added his seventh goal of the postseason in the second period.

The Sharks thought they had opened the scoring early in the first period, when a puck looked like it deflected off the skate and stick of Joe Pavelski to beat Antti Niemi. After a long video review, the goal was waived off to a roar from the large Chicago crowd. Patrick Marleau capitalized for the lone Sharks goal with a man advantage in the second period. With Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa off creating a 5-on-3, Marleau intentionally shot wide of the net. The puck deflected to Joe Pavelski at the opposite side of the crease, who spun and fired it back across. Marleau hammered the puck high over Niemi for his first goal of the game.

Montreal became only the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in the ECSF against Boston, but the outlook is bleak for the Sharks. “Now it is officially win or go home… this locker room is not going to quit,” defenseman Dan Boyle offered. Captain Rob Blake added, “We have to look at 1 game, that is the big picture. We put ourselves into this.”

[Update] Hawks leave the Sharks with one answer: Leave – Steve Rosenbloom for the Chicago Tribune.

I don’t know what else the Sharks can do.

They’ve skated at the pace the Blackhawks wanted, and they’ve taken it to the Hawks. And they still lost.

They went with their top lines against the Hawks’ top lines, and they produced a lot of scoring chances. And they still lost. They changed lines, drew power plays, and outshot the Hawks in the United Center in a gotta-have-it Game 3 after dropping the first two games at home. And they still lost.

They forced the Hawks’ dangerous scorers to the perimeter and cut down on the bodies in front of their goaltender. And they still lost. They came back from a potentially killer breakaway goal late in the third period and tied the game even later. And they still lost.

I don’t know what else the Sharks can do. And it doesn’t look like they know, either.

[Update2] Sharks’ valiant fight not enough vs. Chicago’s heroes – Justin Bourne for Yahoo.com.

[Update3] Hawks inch closer to Cup, Bolland brilliant while Dustin Byfuglien gives the Chicago a 3-2 win and 3-0 series lead in their Western Conference Final against San Jose – Eric Duhatschek for the Globe and Mail.

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