The Sedins certainly assisted in many ways during Vancouver’s efforts Sunday afternoon. Seven different times, to be precise.
Henrik Sedin tallied four helpers and brother Daniel notched three of his own as the Vancouver Canucks rode a three goal second period to a 4-2 win in game four of their Western Conference finals series. With the win, the Canucks drew to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, leading the series 3-1 over the San Jose Sharks.
“Their backs are against the wall as close as they can be,” said Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan after the game, acknowledging the 3-1 series deficit. “We know we’ve got a tough task ahead of us.”
Both teams came out skating well in the first period, with the Sharks generally controlling the flow, courtesy of four minor penalties on the Canucks. Less than a minute into the game, Luongo kicked out a Pavelski drive while on the man advantage, and on a subsequent rush shorthanded, Jannik Hansen raced down the right side and slid the puck to Mason Raymond, who came in all alone on Antti Niemi. Niemi made the save, followed by another save on a putback attempt by the speedy Hansen, with the loose puck in front subsequently swept aside by Joe Pavelski. Later in the period, point slap shots by Ian White and Dan Boyle were nimbly turned aside by Luongo. After one, the game was scoreless, with the shots favoring San Jose 10-6.
“Obviously, the power play has to be better,” said McLellan, referencing the club’s 0-for-5 effort in the first period and early second, on which they managed just eight shots.
After the streak of San Jose power plays was over, the worm turned. Starting with a high-sticking call against Dany Heatley at 8:15 of the second period, there were six straight minor penalties whistled against the Sharks. Three times, the Canucks enjoyed two-man advantages. The primary difference between the San Jose streak and Vancover’s was in the results: the Canucks scored three power play goals in the middle frame. At 9:16, Henrik Sedin won the draw, with the puck eventually finding the stick of Sami Salo. Salo passed back to Sedin, who slid the puck laterally to Ryan Kesler. Kesler one-timed it on a line past Niemi for the 1-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, a too-many-men minor penalty on San Jose created yet another 5-3 advantage for the Canucks.
Henrik Sedin, looking like a modern-day civil war general with his red beard and calculated air, passed to Daniel at the point, who sent it back to Henrik down low. Daniel and Sami Salo switched places, and Henrik moved the puck back to Salo, who one-timed it home for the 2-0 advantage. Sixteen seconds later, the Sedin/Sedin/Salo combination struck again, with mirror-image results. Henrik passed to Salo, remembering just how well it worked sixteen seconds earlier, did the very same thing, firing a one-timer into the net and increasing the lead to 3-0.
The three 5-3 goals set an NHL playoff record, but McLellan wasn’t buying the notion that the officiating was a problem. “I can’t sit here and whine and bitch about the officiating, because it had absolutely nothing to do with it,” he said. He put the responsibility for “that mess” squarely on the shoulders of his own team. Noteworthy after two periods were the shots, which now favored San Jose 18-10. Regardless, the ill-timed penalties were being taken advantage of – in full measure – by Vancouver.
As typical for teams in the hole to start the period, the Sharks turned up the pressure in the third. However, it was Vancouver that struck once again, as Daniel Sedin’s tape-to-tape stretch pass led to a 2-1 odd-man rush for the Canucks. Henrik Sedin held the puck, faked the shot, stickhandled and did everything but yodel before crisply sending the puck across the crease to Alexander Burrows, who scored into the nearly empty net for the huge 4-0 lead. “I was looking for Burr all the way,” explained Henrik. “I had nothing left but to sneak it through his five-hole.”
At 7:02, the Sharks finally found the scoreboard. With Jamie McGinn battling for the loose puck in the corner, the puck found the stick of Kent Huskins who sent it back out to the point. Andrew Desjardins one-timed it through traffic, beating Luongo and breaking the shutout. A little over eight minutes later, Ryan Kesler was unable to clear the puck out of his own zone and Ryan Clowe made him pay, collecting the cross-ice pass from Logan Couture and firing it into the back of the net, drawing to within two at 4-2. However, with just over four minutes left and Roberto Luongo on top of his game (33 saves), it seemed too little, too late – and it was. Despite outshooting Vancouver by a staggering 22 shots, the game was never seriously in doubt after the three-goal flurry in the second period. As the horn sounded, the Canucks had taken a commanding 3-1 series lead with the 4-2 win.
Commenting on Sami Salo’s two big power play goals, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said,”Without a doubt, Sami’s shot is a big weapon. We tried it last game on those 5-on-3s. I thought we had some great scoring chances, but their goaltender made some unbelievable saves. Today we were able to throw a couple little things at them that maybe caught them off guard on that 5-on-3. Sami’s shot was available and we used it twice real quickly and it worked.”
With respect to the mountain they’ll need to climb to win this series, San Jose coach Todd McLellan said, “”We know we’ve got a tough task ahead of us.”
To add injury to insult, Canucks agitator Raffi Torres blasted Captain Joe Thornton to the ice with 10:47 left in the third period, driving him out of the game with the ubiquitous “upper body injury”. However, in a text message within two hours after the game, Thornton indicated that he would be available for game five. “100 percent,” he texted. “It’s playoffs, got to play through everything.”
Game five is Tuesday at 6:00 local time, also in Vancouver. The Sharks hope Vancouver’s “assisted” living is a little less generous, next time around.