With their backs against the wall Friday, the San Jose Sharks dominated the Vancouver Canucks at HP Pavilion and had to hang on for the huge 4-3 win. The Sharks climbed back into the series behind a two-goal performance by Patrick Marleau.
The Sharks had heard it from experts, pundits and even their own “fans” after their Game 2 collapse.
Heard how the Canucks were just too fast, too physical and too skilled for San Jose? About how a 0-2 series hole was almost certainly going to result in San Jose’s third exit from the Western Conference finals in their third appearance.
Instead the Sharks responded with all the chips in the table, answering the call in yet another season-defining moment. San Jose came together as a team and showed their doubters and that they mean business.
Game 3 was the ultimate gut-check for the men in teal, and the chance to even the series in Game 4 lies ahead for the San Jose Sharks.
Head coach Todd McLellan made some interesting lineup changes as expected, and replaced the fourth line by scratching Eager-Nichol-Ferriero. The new fourth line of Jamie McGinn-Jamal Mayers-Andrew Desjardins got the nod instead and played an outstanding game.
Vancouver gave Alexandre Bolduc and Tanner Glass the start in favor of Jeff Tambellini and Cody Hodgson on its fourth line.
The first period got off to a terrific start for the Sharks as they pressed the action deep into the Canuck zone. At 2:03 of the first period, Lapierre was called for roughing as he checked Ian White awkwardly behind the Sharks net.
Patrick Marleau shot the Joe Thornton pass five-hole past Luongo to give the Sharks the lead 1-0 at 3:56 of the first period. Thornton was again deadly behind the net as Marleau scored a goal in his fourth straight game. This was a sign of things to come for the Sharks top line.
Just two minutes later, Christian Ehrhoff took a double minor for high-sticking Torrey Mitchell at 6:54, putting the Sharks on the power play again. Ryane Clowe added to the Sharks' lead by jamming home a Dan Boyle rebound shot at 8:22.
The Sharks continued to dominate the first period, holding the Canucks to just one shot with five minutes left in the first period.
Marleau tallied his second goal of the period at 17:24, with credit to Thornton who stripped Edler at the Sharks blueline. Joe’s heads-up play gave Marleau the breakaway opportunity before beating Luongo high to the glove side for the 3-0 Sharks lead.
The first period closed with another poor turnover committed by Devin Setoguchi that really was the only blemish on what could have been the Sharks’ most complete period of the postseason.
At 3:20 of the second period, Vancouver took their fourth straight penalty as Rome took the hooking minor on McGinn. The Canucks managed to kill their first penalty of the game, but Kevin Bieksa sent the Sharks back on the power play at 6:34.
Unfortunately Joe Pavelski took an offsetting interference penalty at 7:47, and the Canucks had a brief power-play chance as Bieksa left the box. The Sharks killed off the Pavelski minor, and Bieksa continued his march to the sin bin, taking another minor at 10:30.
At 14:27 Desjardins took a holding penalty, giving the Canucks the power play before Thornton was called for holding just a few seconds later.
Facing a 5-on-3 situation, the Sharks penalty killers came up huge as Antti Niemi made some miraculous saves. Just as San Jose killed that penalty, Desjardins made another rookie mistake by tripping Kesler coming out of the box.
The Canucks went back on a 5-on-3 power play, and again the Sharks rose to the occasion, denying the league’s best power-play unit.
The second period closed with the Sharks outshooting the Canucks 14-13 despite being shorthanded for the better part of the period.
Early in the third period, Niemi made his first mistake of the game, clearing the puck directly to Burrows, who wasted no time in finally getting Vancouver on the board at 1:09.
Ryan Kesler prevents a Dany Heatley odd-man rush on Luongo, but took the tripping penalty at 5:02 that would compound as Burrows foolishly took a tripping minor on Niemi just minutes later.
Boyle restored the Sharks' three-goal lead by one-timing the puck past Luongo to give the Sharks their third power-play tally of the night at 6:46.
Aaron Rome continued a Canuck theme, taking a cross-checking penalty at 8:27 and giving the Sharks their ninth power play of the night. The Canucks killed the penalty off, before Rome was hit hard by McGinn deep in the Canuck zone. McGinn was called for a boarding major and game misconduct—a huge penalty at that stage of the game.
At 13:39 Dan Hamhuis cut the San Jose lead to two, one-timing the puck past Niemi from the right circle. Bieksa made it a one-goal game just a few minutes later off a booming shot from the left point.
With time running out and the net vacated for the Canucks, Bieksa took a slashing penalty, effectively killing the man advantage for Vancouver.
Niemi had one of his best performances of the postseason, shutting the door against multiple Canuck scoring chances in the second period.
The second period could easily be one of the greatest sequences in Sharks playoff history, killing off back-to-back two-man advantages. Niemi stood on his head the entire game and outperformed Roberto Luongo to bring the Sharks back into the series.
Outside of Burrows' unassisted goal, Niemi played an excellent game and dominated the Canucks in Game 3. Recording 34 saves for the huge victory, Niemi is getting better as the playoffs continue—which is bad news for Vancouver.
Todd McLellan’s changes to the lineup could have been shocking, as we hinted in the prediction article. And replacing your entire fourth line with two rookies in a pivotal must-win Game 3 was about as shocking as it got.
Sitting Scott Nichol for the first time in 15 playoff games as well as Ben Eager in favor of the new fourth line paid off for the Sharks big time.
This line not only played responsible hockey, they generated chances and penalties, including two huge calls in the second period.
This line isn’t without its warts as Desjardins and McGinn made some young mistakes, but as a Sharks fan you can’t be more pleased with the unit’s performance.
The Sharks knew they had to keep their composure as emotions ramped up for Game 3, and they did just that.
Ignoring the extracurricular stuff for the entire game, especially early, the Sharks kept their mind on their business instead of revenge.
Hansen taking a shot on goal after the whistle had blown, Bieksa knocking Thornton into the net and Kesler trying to punch Couture along the boards are just a few of the examples in the first period.
Instead of losing their cool, the Sharks ignored the goonery and kept their minds on winning the game. This is exactly the kind of game the Sharks needed, as Vancouver lived up to their reputation of melting down in the playoffs.
Vancouver overextended themselves in their quest to agitate the Sharks and paid for it in Game 3.
The much-maligned San Jose penalty kill came up huge tonight, with 55 combined penalty minutes in Game 3 and two back-to-back 5-on-3 Canuck power plays. The Sharks' power play continues to be deadly in this series, and Thornton and Marleau kept up their hot play against the Canucks.
Douglas Murray was an absolute beast on the penalty kill tonight, and as he's done the entire postseason led the way in blocked shots and hits.
All this in a game where not many gave them a chance, the Sharks dominated the special-teams play until the untimely boarding major allowed the Canucks to close the score.
Taking a page out of the Canuck playbook, the Sharks jumped on stretch passes through the neutral zone and limited their turnovers. As the game progressed the Canucks pressed the play further, leading to more turnovers for the Sharks.
Vancouver had difficulty exiting the zone in the first and second periods, where the Sharks dominated zone time and shots on goal. Without Luongo this game could have easily been out of reach very early for Vancouver, but the Sharks had to hold on during the McGinn major.
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Mitchell had quite a bit of jump in his game tonight, but almost cost the Sharks as he turned the puck over late in the game with an empty net. Pavelski played an excellent game at the right point on the power play and on the penalty kill; Little Joe was huge all night.
Jamie McGinn-Jamal Mayers-Andrew Desjardins
Drawing a penalty early in the second and playing strong in their zone, the newly formed fourth line was highly effective in Game 3 for the Sharks.
Jamie McGinn was given the major and misconduct on the hit against Aaron Rome unfortunately but there’s not much you can ask the youngster to do in that situation. Luongo plays the puck hard around the boards, McGinn arrives at the same time as the puck and Rome turns his back to the play.
Giving McGinn the major and misconduct is a judgement call, and it didn't warrant that punishment at least in my eyes. Ben Eager's boarding penalty against Daniel Sedin in Game 2 is a major, the play tonight could have gone either way considering when McGinn arrived.
Defensive play late
Just about every period saw the Sharks go back to an ugly habit of playing loose in their own zone. Devin Setoguchi’s lackadaisical backhand centering pass with about 10 seconds left in the first period is a perfect example.
The Sharks continue to struggle in the faceoff dot, and Joe Pavelski struggled after a strong Game 2 rebound. Joe Thornton has been one of the only real constants for San Jose, and without Nichol the Sharks had problems in Game 3.
Hard to blame the Sharks for the Canucks charging back in the third period, as they controlled the tempo all game long with the exception of that five-minute major which opened the door. The Canucks top ranked power-play had been held in check all game, and they finally broke through to close the gap in the third period.
It's a series again with the San Jose win in Game 3, but there's still some lingering questions heading into Game 4.
While the fourth line certainly improved, the Sharks did miss Nichol's faceoff contributions. Will he play in Game 4? Could Ben Eager return to the ice?
Logan Couture took an unfortunate tumble in the third, colliding with Ryane Clowe. He returned to the bench only to be sent back to the locker room late in the third period. Will Logan Couture and Jason Demers play?
San Jose got the job done against all the odds again in Game 3 when many didn't think they would. It's nothing new for this Sharks squad this year, as it has overcome every obstacle and challenge with the heart of a champion.
With Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton leading the way, the rest of the Sharks must continue to pull their weight as they did in Game 3 to tie the series.
San Jose has shown the hockey world the resilience needed to win it all, and now they've got to continue taking the right steps in Game 4.