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.
Vancouver 3, San Jose 0
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.
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The first period was reasonably even matched despite the disparity in star power between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, but the Caps looked like they would take a commanding lead in the second period.
Marcus Johansson scored thanks to a seeing-eye backhand shot while Washington was shorthanded, but Marc-Andre Fleury kept the Penguins in the game by making some huge saves when things looked especially dire.
The box score might read that the two teams tied with 10 shots each, but the fact is that the game could have been long gone. To Pittsburgh’s credit, they seemed to settle down after Fleury made some big stops on the penalty kill.
Mike Green’s exact status is not clear just yet, but the Capitals’ most important defenseman did not return to the bench during the middle period.
Washington is in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 lead, but they need to find the right balance between protecting their lead and taking their foot off the gas in the third period. We’ll be there to cover it for you, so feel free to follow our chat and online coverage here.
It makes sense that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are squaring off on Super Bowl Sunday, because the two heated rivals are playing a game of inches right now. This is the hockey equivalent of a football game in which two teams grind out three yard rushes over and over again, waiting for the other side to give in.
The Penguins blinked first, as Brooks Laich scored a rebound goal to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
Despite the fact that Pittsburgh trails going into the first intermission, the pace and style benefits Dan Bylsma’s star-starved Penguins, who must prefer the game’s current North-South attitude. The first period featured precious few second chances and moments of sustained pressure for either side, as both teams are moving the puck out of their zones with dizzying speed. That being said, the Capitals might be able to exploit some opportunities from the point, as they did on the game’s only goal.
While that mode of play lacks for creativity, the pace of the game has been impressive for an unusual afternoon start time.
The period ended tensely, as Mike Green was bloodied when a Brooks Orpik shot hit him in the ear or the side of the head. Green was able to leave the ice under his own power; we’ll let you know if he sustains a serious injury from that errant puck.
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