One for the Road- Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau came up huge for the San Jose Sharks when it mattered most in Wednesday night’s playoff opener versus the Vancouver Canucks. The two veteran Sharks combined for a pair of goals in the third period as team teal took care of the host Canucks 3-1 in the first game of their best of seven opening round playoff series. This was a game that was fast, hard hitting and kept the fans on the edge of their seats for most of the contest. The Sharks two goals in the final period came off a veteran of many playoff series, the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo who started in place of the injured Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider. Luongo kept the Sharks at bay for a good portion of the first and second periods. Meanwhile Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has a very busy night as he made 29 saves however probably saw at least double that number of pucks come his way throughout the contest has he endured multiple Canucks scoring chances.
Pushing The Hosts- The Sharks carried the play early in the game and peppered Luongo with 15 shots on goal. Team teal was faster too the loose pucks early and played with a chip on their shoulder. The Sharks had an early power play opportunity after Dale Weise of the Canucks was called for high sticking. Luongo was forced to make key saves early, including one against Martin Havlat where he was able to snag the hot rubber biscuit out of the air before it crossed the goal line. Havlat got to the rebound of a shot on goal from Marleau. The Sharks would continue to keep the pressure on Vancouver though the period only to see Luongo come up huge each and every time. Not to be outdone, Niemi made a share of key saves on shots on goal from the Canucks Derek Roy and Frank Corrado. In the middle period the Canucks started to puck up their play and put more pucks on Niemi as early on the Sharks netminder found himself handing hot shots from Jason Garrison, Henrik Sudin, Ryan Kesler and Alexander Elder all of who brought hard rubber Niemi’s way.
Getting Pushy- Much of the second period saw the Canucks become more aggressive and at one point they were starting to put out some heavy hits on the Sharks. At one point late in the second period Vancouver was out hitting the Sharks 34-14 and were clearly laying out the wood on the ice. The Canucks aggressiveness would pay off with just over eight and a half minutes remaining in the second period when Kevin Bieksa would get credit for a controversial goal. Bieksa was apparently the last Canuck to touch the rubber biscuit when it seemed his team was pushing the entire Sharks defense along with Niemi into the Sharks net. The Sharks defense meanwhile was trying to protect the area around the goal crease. The puck was somehow pushed into the net and the Canucks had the lead. The Canucks kept the pressure on team teal after the goal. Niemi had to do his letter best to regain his composure quickly and at the same time focus on keeping the Sharks in the game.
Sharks Bite Back- Just as it seemed the Canucks were gaining a stranglehold on game one, things would turn as Vancouver’s Zack Kassian was given two minutes for using his hockey stick in a way that it wasn’t intended for. The Sharks would take advantage on the power play as they needed just 35 seconds for Logan Couture to light the lamp. Taking a feed pass from the left point by Dan Boyle, Couture from 25 feet away drilled a slap shot that beat Luongo to his left to tie the game. Joe Pavelski would get the assist on Couture’s goal. As the contest moved into the third period, the Sharks were still having some trouble keeping the Canucks out of their defensive zone. However, Vancouver was not able to generate too many scoring chances thanks to a stingy Sharks defense which stepped it up when it had to.
With just under 11 minutes remaining in the final period and team teal in control of the puck in the Canucks zone, Pavelski would throw the puck from the right point towards the Vancouver goal. Luongo was not able to hold onto the puck despite the save and this led to a mad scramble in front of the Canucks net. With Tommy Wingles and Andrew Desjardins unable to jam the puck into the net, the rubber biscuit would float loose past a few Vancouver defensemen. The puck found it’s way to the stick of Boyle who from 10 feet away drilled a wrister that beat a distracted Luongo. The Sharks had the lead for the first time and were now in position to become the first road team to win a game in this seasons’ Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Sharks would soon get another chance in the Canucks defensive zone when Raffi Torres won a battle for the rubber biscuit from behind the Vancouver goal. Torres got a pass of to Mark-Edouard Vlasic who then launched the puck back towards Couture. Seeing that he wasn’t in the best position to shot the puck, Couture fed an incoming Marleau who the Vancouver defense picked up late. Marleau knocked the puck past Luongo to give the Sharks a two goal lead with over five minutes remaining. Team teal from there let the defense take over and grinded out the remaining time to secure the first game of the best of seven series and steal home ice away from the Canucks.
Shark Bytes- Three Stars of Game One were 3) Dan Boyle (Sharks); 2) Roberto Luongo (Canucks); and 1) Logan Couture (Sharks). The Sharks lead the best of seven series 1-0 with Game 2 Friday Night. Martin Havlat left the game with an undisclosed injury in the first period. The Canucks fans were given free towels before the game…just saying. The game was carried in the USA on NBC Sports Network, who used the Sharks CSN California feed plus broadcast team of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda for some national exposure. Teams may be a seem a little fresher at least early in the post season. This was the Sharks and Canucks 49th game of the season overall, normally it would have been their 83rd (thanks to this thing they called the lockout). No teams will hit a wall and that should at least make for some better playoff hockey.
Sharks Next Game- Game 2 Friday Night at 7pm PT at Vancouver. Can the Sharks grab a two game lead on the road? Tune in and find out… CSN California in Northern California; CNBC in USA: TSN in Canada; Sharks Radio Network …
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