Boyle’s Law describes the inversely proportional relationship between pressure and volume in a gas. Dan Boyle laid down the law Friday night, and the San Jose Sharks had a gas.
Boyle’s power play goal at the 6:46 mark of the third period turned into the game winner, as the Sharks withstood a furious comeback effort by the Vancouver Canucks to win game three in their Western Conference Finals series, 4-3.
“When it’s going, it’s going,” Boyle said, in reference to the San Jose power play, which went two-for-three in the game. “Right now it’s going pretty well.”
The Sharks started out the game not powered by mere gas, but by rocket fuel. They took the initiative and dominated the early action, at one point leading in shots by an astounding 15-1 margin. That early pressure pressure created direct proportionality with the size of the lead they built, as San Jose scored three goals in the first period. The first came at 3:56 while on the man advantage and was courtesy of a beautiful behind-the-net feed by Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau, who whacked it past goaltender Roberto Luongo for the quick 1-0 lead. “Obviously they wanted to come out hard in front of their fans,” Luongo said. “Obviously they generated stuff on the power play.”
At 8:22 and once again on the power play, the Sharks struck again. Displaying almost robotic textook passing, Dany Heatley fed the puck to Logan Couture, who sent it immediately back to Ian White at the left point. White slid it to Dan Boyle on the right who fired a shot that was saved by Luongo, but the rebound came out in front to the camping Ryan Clowe, who backhanded it into the net just ahead of being summarily dumped by Sami Salo. With the goal, the Sharks assumed command of the game, up 2-0.
“We’re taking the shots when they’re there, passing them up when it’s not,” explained Boyle. “It’s the same guys two series ago everyone was complaining and had to answer questions about. Now they’re on the other side of it.”
San Jose wasn’t done with their stellar first period, as they executed a version of the old “give-and-go” play to score their third goal. Alex Edler’s attempt to send the puck deep into the San Jose zone was blocked by Patrick Marleau. The puck trickled to Joe Thornton, who neatly saucered it back to Marleau, who anticipated it and was streaking down the ice. He corralled the puck and broke in all alone on Luongo, wristing it home for the 3-0 advantage. After one period, that was the score, with the shots heavily favoring the Sharks, 16-8.
It was a little bit of a must-win,” Ryane Clowe said. “We definitely played like that.”
The second period saw no goals scored, but fantastic chances by Andrew Desjardins, Devin Setoguchi, and a deflection attempt by Ryan Kesler, amongst others. The Sharks killed off not one, but two 5-3 power plays, preserving the lead. In a fast-skating period, the shots favored San Jose 14-13.
There was little doubt that the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks would break through at some point, and indeed they did in the third period. At 1:09, Niemi poke-checked a cross-crease pass but partially missed, causing the loose puck to dribble out to Alex Burrows right in the middle of the slot. After the poke check effort, Niemi was badly out of position and sitting on the ice, a proverbial sitting duck. Borrows quickly delivered, snapping it past the prone Niemi and cutting the lead to 3-1. The San Jose momentum was broken, but was subsequently restored a little over five minutes later and while on yet another power play. Marleau and Boyle passed the puck between themselves while pinching toward the net. Boyle, no doubt thinking about the calculus involved in determining Boyle’s Law, shrugged and fired a one-timer on the net that blasted past Luongo, who fell backwards as if he were a redwood tree being harvested, increasing the lead back to a three-goal margin at 4-1.
Although it didn’t appear so at the time, the Boyle goal was critical. At 13:39 and on the power play, Dan Hamhuis one-timed a cross-slot pass from Henrik Sedin into the twine, and just 2:25 later, Kevin Bieksa muscled up and fired a shot from the right point that ticked off the skate of Ian White and into the net, drawing the resilient Canucks to within one. However, despite their best efforts the rest of the way, Vancouver was unable to notch the equalizer and when the horn sounded, San Jose had won the game 4-3, reducing the series lead to 2-1.
“You don’t want to be down 3-0,” Ryan Clowe said. “We’re still behind the eight ball, so hopefully we come out with that same urgency next game.”
Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan said, “I think our group, individuals within our group, spoke to you today about approaching it like Game 7. They obviously did that in the first period,” McLellan said. “My answer to that was I’d like them to approach Games 1 through 7 like it was Game 7. We’ll see if we can replicate that again on Sunday afternoon (in Game 4).”
Henrik Sedin was succint: “Niemi played good tonight.”
Game four is Sunday at 3:00 EDT. The Canucks hope they can lance Boyle this time around.