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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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