|SJS Lead Series 3 - 0|
Nine seconds after Couture’s bullet from the back of the left circle got past Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, Patrick Marleau scored. It happened so fast that Miller was still in the process of announcing Couture’s goal. The already-celebrating gathering of 17,562 got even louder, rendering Miller’s voice obsolete and setting off a party inside HP Pavilion that lasted all the way until the end of the Sharks’ 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
San Jose now has a commanding 3 games to 0 lead with a chance to complete a sweep Tuesday night at the Shark Tank.
The Couture/Marleau goal sequence was part of a dizzying stretch in which the Sharks scored three goals in a 2-minute, 27-second span, turning a close game into a rout. Couture scored another power play goal at 4:07 of the third, giving San Jose an insurmountable 5-1 lead.
Even before the pivotal third period sequence, the Sharks had been playing generally well, although the Canucks put some pressure on San Jose during the latter portion of the second period. But Vancouver couldn’t stay out of the penalty box, and the Sharks capitalized with three goals with the man-advantage
Couture added two assists to his two power play goals. Joe Pavelski scored the Sharks’ first two goals of the game and also had an assist. Schneider, who is the Canucks starting goalie but missed the first two games of the series with an undisclosed injury, was pulled after allowing his fifth goal in favor of Roberto Luongo, who started and played well during the first two contests.
The Canucks’ tendency to go to the box got the Sharks on the board first when Dale Weise went off for roughing at 12:40 of the first and Dan Hamhuis was penalized for slashing 24 seconds later. That gave San Jose a 5-on-3, and the Sharks capitalized on the two-man advantage just over a minute later when crisp passing by Thorton and Couture set up Pavelski for his first goal.
The Sharks made it 2-0 when defenseman Scott Hannan sent the puck around the boards and Tommy Wingels fired it toward the net. Pavelski was right there in front of the crease and redirected it past Schneider for the score.
The Canucks’ best stretch of the game started with a temporary momentum-shifting goal by Alexandre Burrows at 11:07 of the second. The play began with a pass up the ice by Daniel Sedin to his brother Henrik Sedin, who came to a sudden stop and quickly fed Burrows for the one-timer. Vancouver had a handful of high-percentage chances during the rest of the period but couldn’t get another shot past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
Arguably, the game’s pivotal moment – one that set up the pivotal stretch – came with 15 seconds left in the second period when Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen cross-checked Joe Thornton to prevent a breakaway goal. The ensuing power play spilled over to the third period, and that’s when Couture scored to make it 3-1. Three minutes later, the game was virtually over.
STAR OF THE GAME: Logan Couture. The Sharks center continues to be the dominant player of the series. He had a four-point night, including two power play goals during the frenetic third-period stretch that decided the game. His second goal made it 5-1 at 4:07 of the third period and made the final 16 minutes simply a countdown to victory.
GAME DATA: The Canucks committed 11 penalties, putting the Sharks on the power play for 12 minutes, 40 seconds. … It was the Sharks’ first home postseason win since May 20, 2011, also against the Canucks. … The goals nine seconds apart in the third period were the second-fastest consecutive goals in Sharks playoff history.
INJURY REPORT: San Jose’s Martin Havlat missed his second straight game with a groin injury. Sharks center Scott Gomez returned from an injury to play his first game of the series. Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider also returned from an undisclosed injury to make his series debut.
TEAM STATS: Shots – VAN 30, SJ 38. Power play – VAN 0-2, SJ 3-8. Faceoffs – VAN 42%, SJ 58%.
NEXT UP: The Sharks will look to make it a sweep when they host Vancouver in Game 4 on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion. One big question will be whether Canucks coach Alain Vigneault goes back to Roberto Luongo at goalie or sticks with Schneider. San Jose has never swept a playoff series in its history.
Pavelski scored the first two goals and Couture and Patrick Marleau added scores 9 seconds apart to break the game open early in the third period and give the Sharks a 3-0 series lead.
Couture added a second power-play goal early in the third to end Schneider's night and give him a playoff-best four points for the game. Antti Niemi made 28 saves.
San Jose will attempt to complete the first series sweep in franchise history at home on Tuesday night.
Alex Burrows and Dan Hamhuis scored for the Canucks, who have lost nine of their past 10 playoff games since taking a 3-2 series lead over Boston in the Stanley Cup finals two years ago. Vancouver dropped the last two games of that series, was eliminated in five games in the first round a year ago by Los Angeles and has now fallen into a deep hole against the Sharks.
Even a change at goaltender couldn't change the Canucks' playoff fortunes. Schneider, the starter for most of the regular season, replaced former starter Roberto Luongo after missing the first two games with an undisclosed injury.
Schneider didn't even finish the night as he was replaced by Luongo after allowing three goals in the first 4:07 of the third period to end Vancouver's hopes of a comeback.
The scoring flurry to start the third sent the sellout crowd at the Shark Tank into a frenzy. The first came on a power play when Couture took a long breakout pass from Matt Irwin and beat Schneider from the top of the circle with no traffic in front of the net on the power play.
Couture then won the ensuing faceoff and Marleau skated into the zone and beat Schneider between the pads before the first celebration had even died down to score for the third straight game.
Couture added another power-play goal on a pass from Joe Thornton to give him three for the series and give the Sharks three goals in a span of 2:27.
As much as the goaltending was a problem for Vancouver in this game, goal scoring has been a problem all series. Burrows gave the top line its first goal of the series when he one-timed a pass from Henrik Sedin past Niemi midway through the second period to cut San Jose's lead to 2-1.
But that's all Vancouver could manage until Hamhuis' goal late in the third cut the deficit to 5-2. The Canucks have been held to five goals through three games.
Pavelski built the lead for the Sharks when he scored on a two-man advantage in the first period and then tipped a long shot from Tommy Wingels past Schneider to make it 2-0 in the second period.
After being held pointless in a five-game, first-round loss to St. Louis a year ago, Pavelski is back to being the big-time playoff performer he has been for much of his career in San Jose. He had his fourth career two-goal game in the postseason after assisting on three goals the first two games.
San Jose returned home to a towel-waving crowd at the Shark Tank after winning the first two games on the road in a playoff series for the first time since 1995 and broke out to a 1-0 lead after a high-paced first period when Pavelski converted a pass from Couture during a 5-on-3 advantage.
NOTES: The goals by Couture and Marleau were the second fastest in playoff history for San Jose, 1 second slower than John MacLean and Ron Sutter in 1998 against Dallas. ... The Sharks have won all six meetings against the Canucks this season.
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