In a series dominated by special teams play, the emphasis for both teams coming into Game 4 was to stay out of the penalty box. Unfortunately for the San Jose Sharks, Antti Niemi could not save them in the second period as San Jose conceded three consecutive five-on-three Canuck goals.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin continued their torrid pace against the Sharks, leading the Canucks with a combined seven points. Henrik Sedin set a franchise record with four assists in Game 4, but the Sharks honestly had no answer for the either of the Sedin twins.
San Jose’s power-play sputtered, going 0-5 in their first five man advantages, and were outplayed at home after a rebound victory in Game 3.
Vancouver now has a chance to advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1994 at home in Game 5 on Tuesday.
Todd McLellan stuck with the same fourth line of Desjardins-Mayers-McGinn that performed so well for the San Jose Sharks in Game 3. The Canucks shuffled their fourth line, going with Alexandre Bolduc-Tanner Glass-Cody Hodgson and a pairing of Keith Ballard and Christopher Tanev due to the Ehrhoff and Rome’s injuries.
Just 30 seconds into the game, Tanner Glass gave the Sharks the man advantage by tripping Ian White following a faceoff in the Canuck zone.
San Jose got off on the wrong foot on the power play, losing the puck and allowing the Canucks to get a few chances shorthanded. Antti Niemi was sharp early, especially on the shorthanded two-on-one scoring opportunity against Jannick Hansen and Mason Raymond.
Vancouver killed the penalty and both teams play a relatively conservative game, with shots almost even at 5-4 halfway through the period.
Kevin Bieksa missed on a tip play in the Sharks zone, and took a high-sticking penalty on Joe Thornton in the neutral zone at 10:32.
The Canucks then killed the Bieksa penalty only to have Tanner Glass take another minor by boarding Ian White deep in the Vancover zone.
Vancouver continued their early special teams success, leaving the Sharks power play sputtering with just one shot on goal at this point.
Raffi Torres then took an undisciplined charging penalty late in the first period as he delivered a huge hit to Douglas Murray, sending the big Swede toppling in a rare display.
The first period came to an end, with some huge saves against Clowe, Pavelski and McGinn made by Roberto Luongo for the Canucks. San Jose outshot Vancouver 10-6 for the period, but didn't register many second chance opportunities in a very close game.
Vancouver continued their lazy play when Dan Hamhuis took a hooking penalty after Patrick Marleau entered the Canuck zone with speed. This hooking penalty came directly on the heels of the Torres penalty that carried over from the first period. Unfortunately, the Sharks power-play continued to struggle with some costly puck handling errors from Heatley and Wellwood, but Luongo did see a ton of Shark rubber early.
Dany Heatley took a high-sticking minor at 8:15 on a sloppy play in the neutral zone on Cody Hodgson, and Daniel Sedin sold the tripping penalty on Torrey Mitchell just 30 seconds into the penalty.
Ryan Kesler then scored his first goal of the series on the 5-on-3 power play, giving the Canucks the lead at 9:16 on the one-timer rocket.
Shortly following that, San Jose was caught with their second too many men on the ice penalty in as many games, putting the Canucks back on the two-man advantage.
Salo then extended the Vancouver lead at 10:55, beating Niemi through the screen in front low to the stick side for the two-goal lead.
Douglas Murray then put the Canucks right back on the two-man advantage by flipping the puck out of play in his own zone for a costly delay of game penalty at 11:01.
Just 10 seconds later, Salo slammed another past Niemi from Henrik Sedin’s feed to extend the Canucks lead to three goals at 11:11 of the second period.
The dazed Sharks finally managed to get back to even strength with just seven minutes left in the period, and a quick look at the box score showed that Vancouver had scored three goals on just four shots in the frame. The Sharks led the shots 18-10 after the second period, but behind three consecutive five-on-three power-play goals found themselves squarely behind the eight-ball.
McLellan shuffled his lineup coming into the third period, demoting Setoguchi and putting Logan Couture at wing on the top line alongside Thornton and Marleau.
San Jose was able to apply some early pressure coming off the line changes, but could not capitalize, missing several chances early.
Henrik Sedin struck again at 5:43 of the third period, passing the puck through Niemi’s legs and to an open Burrows for an easy fourth Vancouver goal.
Andrew Desjardins finally got the Sharks on the board at 7:02, tipping a Vlasic wrister from the point past Luongo drawing the Sharks within three.
San Jose had a few chances following that goal, finally showing some jump in their stride before Marleau’s interference penalty at 13:29 gave Vancouver yet another power-play. Joe Thornton left the game after being hammered by Raffi Torres late in the third period, and the Sharks could have certainly used him in the remainder of the game.
Luongo would answer two short-handed chances by the Sharks, before Ryane Clowe tallied with just four minutes left in the game at even strength. A nifty back-handed setup from Logan Couture led to the score, with the secondary assist going to Patrick Marleau who had just exited the box.
San Jose wasted no time pulling Niemi for the sixth attacker with two minutes left in the game, but could not solve Luongo to close the deficit.
Giving the Canucks three goals via the two-man advantage isn’t going to result in many playoff victories, and the Sharks committed far too many mental errors to win in Game 4.
Going scoreless through their first five power plays gave the momentum back to Vancouver, and the Sharks simply gave the Canucks an excessive number of scoring opportunities.
Also, San Jose struggled in the early going while registering just four shots on three penalties, as well as not getting any rebound chances on Luongo.
After being a huge factor in this series so far, the Sharks missed their chances to capitalize in the first period, failing to score on all three minor penalties in the opening frame.
The Sharks have not had much success against Vancouver at even strength, with six of their nine goals coming by way of the power play. Not skating well away from the puck and not punishing Canuck defenders on the forecheck had the Sharks sputtering all afternoon in five-on-five play.
This is disappointing considering Vancouver had two defenseman in Keith Ballard and Christopher Tanev that had not played in this series.
The Sharks failed to capitalize on key Vancouver injuries, and didn’t play with the urgency that they had in Game 3.
Continued to be a problem in Game 4 for San Jose, with Kesler and Henrik Sedin dominating just about every Shark not named Joe Thornton.
Outside of a glorious scoring chance in the second period following an odd bounce off the notorious San Jose Zamboni side end boards, Kyle didn’t do much positively for San Jose in Game 4.
He’s lacking the strength along the boards and not paying the price to make the play right now, and he was a liability on the power play. After talking a ton of trash about his ex-team, Wellwood hasn’t done much to fight his reputation in the playoffs.
With one just one goal in his last 11 games, Heater continues to be ice-cold for the San Jose Sharks. While a sniper of his ilk is certainly prone to a slump, this slump is about five months long, and he’s taking far too many negative plays for San Jose.
He’s seen his power-play ice time dwindle against the Red Wings, and isn’t rewarding McLellan for increasing his PP time against the Canucks. He also spent some time on the third line in Game 4, two games too late in my opinion and it didn’t alter his game in the least bit as he continued to be a liability on the ice.
There’s really not much you can say in defense of Dany Heatley’s play, considering he’s the highest paid Shark on the roster.
San Jose faces yet another huge hurdle as they head back to Vancouver on Tuesday and attempt to stave off elimination. Failing to make much of an effort after their first Western Conference Finals win on home ice in Game 3, the Sharks need to do some soul searching.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau continue to play hard and lead the way, but the rest of the Sharks pretty much laid down again in playoff defeat. The fourth line continued to grind and skate hard, a sad testament considering the rest of the team didn’t want to pay the price.
Thornton left the game in the third, will he return for Game 5 in Vancouver? Will Jason Demers finally make an appearance? And lastly will the San Jose Sharks rebound after yet another disappointing defeat?
San Jose needed maximum effort on home ice in Game 4, and they foolishly squandered the opportunity by making the worst kind of mistakes in the second period.
While it’s not over by any stretch of the imagination, the Sharks have some serious questions to ask after allowing their confidence to get the better of them in yet another pivotal playoff game.
This is the same Canuck team that allowed the Blackhawks to push them to seven games, but with the kind of game the Sharks played, it's hard to see a comeback.
They will have to start in Game 5 on Tuesday, as they face their elimination for the second time in the playoffs this year.