Sharks sweep into semis with OT thriller
HP PAVILION — Hopefully no hockey fans suffered cardiac arrest or went completely deaf from the ear-popping sounds of the sold-out crowd at the Tank after Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Tuesday night.
Because there is more San Jose Sharks hockey on the horizon.
Patrick Marleau emerged as the late game hero with a tie-breaking goal in overtime as the Sharks came from behind to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3, completing the four-game sweep of their rival and advancing to the next round in the quest for the Stanley Cup.
Captain Joe Thornton chalked up the come-from-behind victory to the character of the team:
Sharks center Joe Thornton
“We just plug away. It doesn’t matter what the score is or what time of the game it’s at. We just keep plugging away, and we have so much fun together. And we’re really enjoying it, and you just want to keep it going as long as you can.”
This is the first time San Jose earned a playoff sweep in franchise history, an achievement head coach Todd McLellan admits gives them a sense of relief:
Sharks coach Todd McLellan
“I was asked that question this morning, ‘Do you want to win it to end it?’ Of course we do. But we didn’t want to talk about it or make it a focus. A lot of investment in that game physically. A lot of energy expelled. So the fact that we came away with the win, we didn’t don’t have to get on the plane tomorrow, we get some time to rest, it will all work in our favor.”
The Sharks announced their presence early in the game and got on the board first when Brent Burns tipped the puck past Cory Schneider and into Vancouver’s net.
It was No. 88’s first goal of the playoffs and put the Sharks on top 1-0 2:41 into the first period. Thornton and Scott Hannan tallied assists.
The Canucks evened things up at 7:54 as Mason Raymond’s wrist shot from the blue line beat Antti Niemi to tie the game 1-1, hushing the raucous HP crowd.
San Jose’s defense stepped up their game in the next ten minutes of play with multiple sliding blocks to help take pressure off of Niemi.
Brad Stuart took a nasty hit from Vancouver’s Derek Roy, drawing a boarding penalty at 14:44 to put the home team on their second power play of the night.
Not seven seconds in, Logan Couture fed the puck to Joe Pavelski and his wrist shot eluded Schneider, putting the Sharks back on top 2-1.
It would be Pavelski’s third goal of the playoffs and it gave new life to the home crowd.
McLellan commented on the idea that the puck “followed” Pavelski on the power play during this first round of the playoffs:
“I hear that term … when people are talking about pretty damn good players. You know, the puck followed … Gretzky around. The puck followed Lemieux around. The puck seems to follow Pav around, but he’s smart enough to know where to go to get it.”
Several power play opportunities for the Sharks came and went in the second period, as Vancouver followed a similar pattern to their play in Game 3 with multiple trips to the penalty box. Dan Hamhuis would draw a four-minute high-sticking penalty with 11:22 left, but San Jose would be unable to capitalize.
With the end of their season on the line, Vancouver surged in the third period, keeping the puck in Sharks’ zone for the first 10 minutes back on the ice.
A questionable roughing penalty on Andrew Desjardins with 12 minutes left produced a power play goal by Alexandre Burrows to tie the game 2-2 at 9:12.
Then at 11:02, Alexander Edler’s slap shot missed Niemi’s outstretched glove, putting Vancouver on top 3-2.
Pavelski talked about his team’s reaction as the Sharks saw their lead erased:
“Obviously we weren’t playing the way we wanted to. … We were saying all the right things but we weren’t doing it. We knew what had to be done.”
The crowd erupted in a sea of cheers as Kevin Bieksa — who made headlines the previous day for cheap shots at Thornton and Couture — drew a penalty for cross-checking Tommy Wingels.
Bieksa would watch from the box as Pavelski’s backhander at 15:33 got past Schneider. The noise level at the Tank became deafening as the Sharks tied the game at 3 and sent Game 4 into overtime.
Bieksa admitted to the press that they didn’t lose this series on one penalty but were beaten by the better team:
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa
Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay
“You can’t just look at this one game or one penalty. It was four games of not executing. It’s two years in a row that we lost in the first round. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It fucking sucks, I don’t know if I can say that but that’s what it feels like right now.”
Everyone in the building was on their feet as both teams fought back and forth into overtime to break the tie. Niemi and the Sharks got lucky as a handful of Vancouver shots barely missed going into the net.
After several hits on the Sharks went without notice from the officials, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin was sent to the penalty box at 13:03 for boarding on Wingels.
On the man advantage at 13:18, Marleau got possession of a Thornton rebound and his wrist shot carried past Schneider for the game-winning goal.
The Vancouver netminder simply had no idea where the puck was:
Canucks goalie Cory Schneider
Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay
“I felt it hit my stick. I thought I steered it towards the corner and I still don’t know what happened.”
The roof might have been on the verge of exploding due to all the cheering. But when recalling the final goal, Marleau chuckled and made the play sound easy:
Sharks center Patrick Marleau
“I was kind of yelling for (Thornton) to shoot it. I don’t know if he heard me, but it was a great play by him. … It was just laying there on the side of the net, and I was able to bat it home.”
The Sharks now get their longest break since the shortened 2013 season started as they await to see who their next opponent will be. Will the long break help or hinder the team? McLellan explained:
“If we had one day off or had to play tomorrow we’d be whining and bitching about not having any time off. We’ll whine and bitch about having too much and make do with it.”
San Jose had three power play goals for the second straight game in a row. They finished the series 7-for-24 with the man advantage. … Marleau’s goal was the third playoff overtime game winning goal of his career. Marleau had goals in all four games against the Canucks, finishing the series with 5 points (4 goals,1 assist). … Pavelski, whose second goal of the game tied the score at 3-3 with 4:27 left in the third period, had at least one point in every game of the series. He finished the series with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists). … Thornton had a three assists and now has a three game point-scoring streak. … Burns scored his first goal of the 2013 postseason. … Couture had a pair of assists and finished the series with 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists).