In the first period, we discussed the notion that the Vancouver Canucks were playing with fire thanks to the four penalties they took. As it turned out, the San Jose Sharks were the team that got burned by their own lack of discipline.
During a truly stunning two minute span, the Canucks connected on three different 5-on-3 power play opportunities to take a 3-0 lead. Ryan Kesler started things off with a Steven Stamkos-like one-timer, then Sami Salo showed off his stupendous slapper with two more goals. The Canucks went into this game with questions about their special teams. Through the first two periods, they’ve answered those queries in the most resounding way imaginable.
It’s unclear if the Canucks broke a record for 5-on-3 goals in a period (let alone two-minute span), but it remains one of the stranger developments in a rather odd playoff year. Henrik Sedin earned three assists on that power play, suddenly staking him to first place in the 2011 playoffs with 18 points. (Daniel Sedin was strong too, earning two assists himself.)
People shouldn’t blame Antti Niemi too much for allowing goals on some blisteringly hard shots. That being said, Roberto Luongo made some big saves during the Canucks’ torrent of penalties and Niemi didn’t. There are other variables (those Canucks goals came on 5-on-3 power plays, which naturally allow more room for dangerous shots), but many will unfairly boil it down to that.
Earlier on, it seemed like Keith Ballard’s highlight reel hip check (more on that later) would be the most memorable moment of the second period. That scoring spree rendered that moment more or less an afterthought, although many will wonder if things would have been different if he received a clipping penalty on the hit.
Even if the Sharks fall short in the rest of this game, we might learn a lot about San Jose in the third period. This team came back from a 4-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings, so we know that they have the firepower and moxie to come back. If nothing else, they need to play a strong final frame to regain their composure and self-respect.