Sharks power toward sweep of Canucks

HP PAVILION — White rally rags and cut-outs of Raffi Torres’ bug-eyed mug may have blanketed the sold-out stands, but it was the San Jose Sharks who put on the real show Sunday night.

An explosive third period, loads of power play time and unwavering goaltending by Antti Niemi led Team Teal to a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Logan Couture was all smiles when he talked about the extra momentum from the home crowd to get the win, especially after taking the first two games in Vancouver:

Sharks Center Logan Couture

“In front of our home crowd, it’s always fun playing — they’re so loud. As soon as you go through the shark head it really gets you going. It was fun, it was fun winning in front of these guys.”

Couture tallied four points for the night (two goals and two assists) and Joe Pavelski notched his first two goals of the playoffs and an assist in less than 40 minutes of play.

But Pavelski wasn’t letting the game go to his head, crediting his team’s discipline not letting the opposition ruffle their feathers:

“Obviously we didn’t need to go get into that. We showed certain areas of our toughness on the PP early. … The score’s where it’s at, and they’re going to do what they need to do.”

Head coach Todd McLellan attributed the win to the team’s extensive time on the power play:

Sharks Coach Todd McLellan

“It was a pretty even game again, early. Probably the difference at the end of the night is us being on the power play for almost thirteen minutes. They’re taxing minutes when you’re on the penalty kill all the time…”

Tempers began flaring after a dog pile following a Niemi glove save at 6:44 in the first period. The mini-brawl sent Adam Burish and Tom Sestito to their respective boxes for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Just seconds into 4-on-4 play, Patrick Marleau gave Vancouver captain Ryan Kesler a good hard check into the glass. No. 12 got called for high-sticking sending the Tank into a frenzy of jeers.

Marleau took the long skate to the penalty box and Vancouver went on the 4-on-3 man advantage.

Sharp Sharks defense killed both penalties to keep the game scoreless with 10 minutes left to play in the first. Niemi talked about the defense that played in front of him:

“We need to be the harder working team. Especially in our own zone. …  Especially on the PK when guys are blocking shots like today.”

Niemi continued to keep the puck from getting past him, despite another scrum with 7:20 left in the first. The pile-up resulted in a penalty on Vancouver’s Dale Weise and put San Jose back on the power play.

The Canucks weren’t done with their dance to the penalty box, as Dan Hamhuis skated off for slashing at 13:04, giving the Sharks a 5-on-3.

Forming a perfect isosceles triangle formation in front of Vancouver’s net, Thornton threaded the puck up to Couture in the slot, who fed the puck to Pavelski.

No. 8’s wrist shot from the left side past Cory Schneider completed the perfect power play goal, putting San Jose on top 1-0.

Defense played a big part on both sides to open up the second period. A glove save by Schneider denied Pavelski another goal some six minutes in.

But at 7:20, Pavelski skated towards the crease and with his back facing the net, deflected the puck from Tommy Wingels shot out of Schneider’s view, increasing the lead to 2-0.

Vancouver got on the board when Henrik Sedin’s cross-ice pass to Alexandre Burrows for the easy wrister at 11:07 to put the visitors on the board, trailing 2-1.

Thornton skated to a breakaway with 14 seconds left in the second period, but Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen cross-checked the Sharks captain and put San Jose back on the power play.

Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin commented on the team’s slew of penalties:

Canucks center Henrik Sedin

Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay

“It’s a lot of things. I thought for two periods we played a good game but we’re taking too many penalties right now. They’ve got a great power play. Once they scored they got a lot of momentum off of them and they scored a few tonight as well and those are killing us right now.”

Blinking at your TV would have been unwise to open the third period, as the Sharks’ next two goals came nine seconds apart.

Couture’s first goal of the night, and second in these playoffs occurred just 1:40 into the period.

Then, almost immediately following the face off, Patrick Marleau got the puck from Couture, skated to the slot and perfectly placed the puck between the legs of Schneider  giving the Sharks the 4-1 advantage.

The assault on Schneider wasn’t finished. With Henrik Sedin in the box for high-sticking and San Jose back on the man advantage, Couture got the jump on the Vancouver netminder yet again, and the home team was up 5-1 with 15:53 left in the third period.

At that point, the Canucks pulled Schneider and put Roberto Luongo between the pipes. Luongo had nice things to say about Schneider’s overall performance:

 Canucks Goaltender Roberto Luongo

Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay

“It’s not fun. I think he played great the first two periods and made some great saves. He really kept us in the game and unfortunately it’s happened one too many times with our team. We let in one or two goals and the flood gates open so we have to find a way to stop the bleeding there.”

The Sharks had faced Luongo during Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver before the Canucks decided to put Schneider in for Game 3. McLellan talked about being prepared to face both of the Canucks goaltenders:

“There’s the normal preparation that went in. But nothing systematically with our game changed at all. We tried to keep everything even keel. We prepared before the serieks for both goal tenders.”

Hamhuis got a wrist shot past Niemi at 13:02 to bring the score to 5-2, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the Sharks, putting San Jose up three games to none.

Kesler spoke about the difficulty of being the team down three games with their season on the line:

Canucks Center Ryan Kesler

Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay

“I’ve got a lot better and I know everybody in this room is going to have a lot better. Our backs are against the wall and we can either crumble or come back and come out swinging. And we need to put our best foot forward. It’s do or die now and I’m not going down easy that’s for sure.”

But McLellan isn’t going to let his team get too wrapped up in the success of these first three games:

“Tomorrow I will remind them that, the last time we were in this situation, we had to play seven. So, there’s a lot of hockey left between these two teams. A lot.”

McLellan is referencing the 2011 Western Conference Semi-Finals, when the Sharks also led that series three games to none and survived by beating the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7.

The Sharks and Canucks square off for Game 4 Tuesday night at HP Pavilion. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

Notes

San Jose has taken a 3-0 series lead for the fourth time in franchise history. … The Sharks’ three power play goals tied a franchise record for most power play goals in a single playoff game. It is the fourth time in franchise history San Jose has scored three power play goals in a single playoff game. … Couture and Marleau scored goals 9 seconds apart in the third period. The franchise playoff record for fastest two goals is 0:08, was set in a 3-2 loss at Dallas on April 30, 1998. Couture tied a franchise record for most power play goals in a single playoff game, becoming the fifth player to do so. … Eight Sharks players registered a point.