Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks - Game Three

Sharks bite back, fight off Canucks to take Game 3 4-3

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The San Jose Sharks needed to make a statement tonight and fight back to get into the Western Conference finals with Vancouver. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead and hanging on while fighting off a late major penalty, the Sharks took down the Canucks 4-3 to draw within 2-1 in the series.

The hero tonight was none other than embattled forward Patrick Marleau. Marleau kicked things off in the first period for the Sharks scoring twice and helping stake the Sharks to a 3-0 lead after the first period. After all the grief Marleau took after their series against Detroit, he’s now scored in four straight games in the playoffs and is working as San Jose’s main source of offense against Vancouver.

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While the Sharks hung on to that first period lead, through the second period, the third would bring about the same problems they’ve seen throughout the last few games as the Canucks would fight back. Alex Burrows would get Vancouver on the board just 1:09 into the period but Dan Boyle would help restore San Jose’s three goal lead just five minutes later.

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While the Sharks would hang onto that lead for the next few minutes, Jamie McGinn would put the Sharks in peril after taking a five minute major for boarding Aaron Rome. The hit left Rome bloodied on the ice and the Sharks down a man for the next five minutes.

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On the ensuing five minute power play, the Canucks would make it a game scoring twice thanks to goals from Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa to make the final minutes of the game a bit more stressful cutting the lead to 4-3.

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While the game would tighten up profoundly for the final four minutes of the game, the Sharks would hang on and keep the Canucks from getting the equalizer and giving San Jose their first win in the series. The win wouldn’t come without a price for the Sharks though as they lost Logan Couture to injury in this one.

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How Couture holds up from that we’ll see, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan says Couture will be in for Game 4. In Game 4, the Sharks will need a similar effort to even the series up at 2-2. The Sharks came out on fire tonight and eager to put the Canucks back on their heels and they did just that.

Getting out to a three goal lead in any game is good enough to get anyone’s bogeymen out and in full effect but if not for a careless penalty by McGinn they likely cruise to victory. Instead, they fought off hardship and held on to win. It’s a test of a different kind, but one the Sharks were able to pass tonight. Getting three assists from Joe Thornton turned out to be a pretty sweet bonus as well.

For Vancouver, that kind of effort early on is not what we’ve seen out of them for some time. Not since the first round against Chicago have we seen such a slow first period effort by Vancouver and the Sharks appropriately took advantage of it thanks to Marleau’s work. While Vancouver did their part to make it close late, they needed some help from McGinn to make it work out for them. Those kinds of breaks help out, but San Jose did well to hold them down for the most part tonight. Antti Niemi did well to stop the Canucks making 27 saves but Roberto Luongo was a bit too busy for the Canucks’ liking making 34 stops.

Expect Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 on NBC (3 p.m. ET) to be the game that helps decide whether this series is destined for seven games or perhaps a quick finish.

Here are tonight’s highlights from Game 3

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Report: Leafs win arbitration case with Cowen

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on January 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their arbitration case with Jared Cowen, who will remain bought out.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the news today. It is a significant loss for Cowen, the 25-year-old defenseman who came to the Leafs in February as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade.

From Sportsnet’s story before the ruling:

At issue is whether Cowen was healthy enough to have the final year of his contract bought out by the Leafs last summer. A lengthy section of the CBA is devoted to “procedures for determining fitness to play,” and they include a player’s right to pursue a second medical opinion beyond what is provided by the team.

That information, plus witness testimony and other evidence, will be taken into account by the arbitrator while rendering a decision.

For Cowen, there is $3-million in salary at stake. That represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 per cent of his career NHL earnings to date – a huge amount given his injury history and diminished future earning potential.

For the Leafs, it’s significant win. They’ll actually get a $650,000 cap credit this season. Next season, they’ll take a $750,000 hit, and after that their obligations are over.

If they’d lost, they would’ve lost the credit and assumed a $3.1-million cap hit this season, the final year of Cowen’s contract.

Sportsnet explains why the Leafs didn’t want to lose:

That’s a $3.75-million cap swing in total and would almost certainly result in the Leafs invoking long-term injury relief on one of three players – Nathan Horton, Stephane Robidas or Joffrey Lupul – to remain compliant.

Even though the LTI maneuver would offer immediate relief, it’s something the Leafs hope to avoid since it would increase the size of the cap overage penalty they’ll carry into next season because of performance bonuses expected to be earned by as many as five rookies in their current lineup.

Cowen had hip surgery after he was bought out. It’s been reported he may not be ready to play until February, assuming he can find a team. He played 37 games for the Senators last season, registering no goals and four assists.

Related: Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again

No hearing for Taylor Hall after Larsen hit

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Taylor Hall #9 of the New Jersey Devils hits Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks in the second period on December 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Devils forward Taylor Hall will avoid supplemental discipline for his big hit on Vancouver’s Philip Larsen, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Midway through New Jersey’s eventual 3-2 win over the Canucks, Hall caught Larsen behind the Vancouver goal with a massive bodycheck, knocking Larsen unconscious. The Danish blueliner was prone on the ice for several seconds before receiving medical attention, and was eventually stretchered off.

Hall wasn’t penalized on the play.

Larsen spent the night in a New Jersey-area hospital, per Sportsnet, and is flying to Vancouver today to meet with team doctors.

Hall said he didn’t regret throwing the hit, but felt awful about the result. He and Larsen do have a history, having briefly played together in Edmonton.

“I’m looking to make contact there, but I never want to see a guy laying on the ice there like that,” Hall said, per NJ.com. “I only know how to play the game one way, and you’ve got to play it hard. But like I said, I feel terrible.

“When you see him laying on the ice like that, he’s a former teammate of mine, and I just would have loved to make a hit there and continue the play. I hope he’s OK.”

Related: The Devils are hanging around, thanks to a great home record

The Devils are hanging around, thanks to a great home record

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 9: Cory Schneider #35 of the New Jersey Devils and teammates salute their fans after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center on April 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Last night’s game in Newark was mostly notable for the scary situation involving Vancouver’s Philip Larsen, who had to be stretchered off the ice following a devastating hit by Taylor Hall.

But the players played on, and the Devils eventually defeated the Canucks, 3-2.

The victory improved New Jersey’s record at Prudential Center to 8-0-2. The Devils are the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose in regulation at home. They’ve struggled on the road, going 4-7-4.

A quarter of the way through the season, the jury remains out on New Jersey as a legitimate playoff contender. The Devils have just six regulation wins, with four of their victories coming in overtime and two more in the shootout. Only the Panthers (5), Coyotes (4), and Canucks (4) have won fewer games in regulation.

But keeping games close has served the Devils well. Twelve times they’ve been tied after 60 minutes, guaranteeing them at least a point. Heading into tonight’s action, they sit just one point back of Washington for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re in a playoff race,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz told reporters this morning ahead of his team’s game with the Bruins (on NBCSN).

The Devils don’t play again until Thursday in Montreal, where a tough stretch starts for John Hynes’ crew. New Jersey returns home to face St. Louis Friday, then it’s back on the road for games at the Rangers, Blues, Senators, and Rangers again.

Wings activate Howard off IR following six-game absence

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 12:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on November 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The Red Wings have played pretty well lately — 5-1-2 in their last eight — and got some good news on Wednesday, as veteran netminder Jimmy Howard was activated off injured reserve.

Howard has been out since Nov. 25 with a groin injury, suffered early in a game against the Devils. He’s missed the last six games as a result, but will — per NHL.com — take part in Thursday’s practice and presumably be ready to dress in time for Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets.

Howard was playing very well prior to getting hurt, posting a 1.82 GAA and .940 save percentage in 12 appearances, 11 of those being starts.

His return means it’s back to AHL Grand Rapids for Jared Coreau, who was recalled a couple weeks ago and made his NHL debut against the Penguins last Saturday, stopping 32 shots in a 5-3 loss. That game was the only one in the last eight in which Detroit failed to secure at least a point.

A big reason for that run was the play of Petr Mrazek. With Howard out, the Czech ‘tender has performed admirably, especially over his last five games — Mrazek has stopped 147 of 158 shots for a .930 save percentage, posting a record of 3-0-2.