It’s been a familiar scene for the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, as they blew yet another third period lead en route to losing Game 1, 3-2.
Looking for win nine of 16, and their first road Game 1 win since 2007, the Sharks had everything going for them heading into the final frame, but couldn’t seal the deal.
Henrik Sedin scored the backhand game-winner past Antti Niemi at 8:21 of the third period, Game 2 now looms ahead for San Jose.
Yet another lead, yet another third period collapse and yet another preventable loss for San Jose who now faces a tough Game 2 ahead.
Jason Demers was scratched before the game, giving Kent Huskins his first start of the postseason for the San Jose Sharks. The start of the game figured to be pivotal for the San Jose Sharks, as they’ve been outscored 13-7 in the opening period.
Vancouver carried play in the early going, dictating the pace and dominating in the faceoff circle winning their first four draws.
The Canucks opened the special teams, with the first power play on the Douglas Murray high-stick at 9:09 of the first period. San Jose’s improved penalty kill continued to take strong strides, holding Vancouver without a shot on the first penalty of the game.
Ben Eager and the fourth line continued their strong improved play, until Eager could not avoid the interference on Roberto Luongo just four minutes later.
San Jose killed the penalty again, and the team picked up their play behind the strong penalty kill to push back against the Canucks.
With just two minutes left in the period, Roberto Luongo played the puck up the left side boards only to have Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton intercept. Sweeping the puck into the open net to open the scoring for San Jose, Thronton’s play was indicative of his strong two-way play all night.
The first period came to an end with the Sharks surging back to even out the shots, 10-11, but still struggling to find their way in the faceoff circle.
Niemi just a few minutes into the second period, committed another puck-handling error by turning the puck over to the Canuck cycle. Lapierre evened the score at 1:49 of the second period for the Canucks, with the assist going to Jannik Hansen from the Niemi turnover.
Midway through the second period, the Sharks began applying the pressure but could not get one past Luongo, before Mason Raymond went off for holding at 7:44.
Just a minute into the Sharks’ first power play, Patrick Marleau tips the Dan Boyle shot from the point to take back the lead for San Jose. Scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs, Marleau gives the Sharks the lead with assists to Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton.
San Jose had taken play to the Canucks for the majority of the second period, until Vancouver began to pour it on with about five minutes left to play. Antti Niemi stopped everything during an incredibly long and wild sequence against the Kesler line, and then again stoned Hansen with about two minutes left in the third.
The third period opened with a much more cautious pace, as the Sharks were trying to slow down the pace early on. San Jose got stuck on a bad change early in the third with Thornton-Wellwood-Mayers struggling to clear the zone.
Just a few seconds later, Kevin Bieksa tied the game from the right point after taking the pass from Alex Burrows. Dany Heatley took an ill-advised elbowing penalty on Torres at 7:34, giving the Canucks another power play.
Henrik Sedin gave the Canucks the lead on the backhand just a few seconds into the Heatley penalty, answering the call for Vancouver at 8:21 as the Sharks couldn’t clear the zone.
San Jose continued to do themselves no favors, allowing two back-to-back odd-man rushes down the ice with Niemi delivering the big stops. Mason Raymond missed on several chances after Kent Huskins passed the puck directly to the closest Canuck in the Sharks zone.
The Canucks carried play late into the third, out-shooting the Sharks 14-6 with just four minutes left to play in regulation.
Boyle and Lapierre took offsetting minors at 17:16, leading to four on four hockey before Niemi was pulled leading a brief Sharks five vs. four powerplay.
San Jose failed to get much pressure before the Canucks closed out the game, with the huge Game 1 win.
Ben Eager and the Fourth Line
They had a strong game in sharp contrast to the Kings and Red Wings series, starting fast and playing defensively sound hockey. In his first two shifts, Eager had two hits and three shots leading the way for San Jose.
Against the Kesler line late in the second, the multiple odd-man rushes in the third, Niemi was spectacular but couldn’t save the Sharks from defeat. Multiple turnovers from the Sharks blueline and Vancouver’s heavy pressure in the attacking zone led to another San Jose collapse.
Vancouver’s skaters are very familiar with Antti, and he still came up with a huge performance keeping the Sharks within striking distance.
Recording 35 saves in the loss, the late flurry in the second period and the huge saves on the odd-man rushes just may have been his best so far in the playoffs.
Jumbo had another great performance, scoring the goal on the intercepted Luongo outlet pass and breaking up several rushes down ice with his backcheck. Against a much deeper squad down the middle in the Canucks, Thornton still won 67 percent of his draws, and didn’t lose in the neutral zone.
Changing up partners throughout the game did not change the outcome for Husky in his first postseason game this year. He was flat out horrible, committing several turnovers no matter who was his defensive partner.
In stark contrast to dominating the Detroit Red Wings before closing out Detroit’s season, the Sharks had a horrible Game 1 in the faceoff circle. Bad recipe for the type of game they want to play, and contributed to yet another third period collapse.
As they did in the Detroit series, the Sharks blueliners took way too many chances and paid for them as the Canucks quickly transitioned the other way for a scoring chance.
Way too many times the Sharks defenseman made the cavalier play as opposed to the smart one, and that’s a huge reason why the Sharks are behind 0-1 in the series.
Coming out on the wrong side of the penalty summary is one thing, taking five penalties to the Canucks' two, but most of them were of the dumb variety, especially late.
The Canucks and Sharks played a fast tempo game in Game 1, and the skill level on the ice makes these lazy, undisciplined kinds of penalties deadly.
Game 2 becomes a near must-win for San Jose as they blow another chance in the third period to close out a game. Carrying a horrid 1-9 record in their last 10 Western Conference Finals appearances, the Sharks must correct the defensive issues leading into Game 2.
While the Sharks did a commendable job containing Ryan Kesler, who had a lone assist and three shots on goal, it was Henrik Sedin that caused the most damage.
While fatigue certainly looked to be a factor it’s not an excuse for the Sharks play, getting out-chanced (71-45), out-shot (39-28) and outhit (38-26).
The Sharks know they’ll need a better effort to earn the split in BC, and San Jose’s depth must come ready to play.