Sharks Blow Third Period Lead, Fall To Canucks 3-2 In Game One

Patrick Marleau gets a beautiful tip-in from a Dan Boyle soft wrister from the point to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 lead over the Vancouver Canucks heading into the third period. It was a strong second period from the Sharks that really only broke down in the final minutes, when Vancouver put the puck on Antti Niemi multiple times, but he held fast. They had the lead, and they looked good through the first forty minutes of play. The crowd was quiet, Roberto Luongo was mildly shook, and, while no lead is ever safe and overconfidence is something to be wary of, they really should have been confident heading into the third period.

Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't, all that's clear is that they apparently forgot how to play top-level hockey when they took the ice for the final frame. All credit to the Canucks, both third period goals that would eventually lift them to the 3-2 final score were beautiful setups with fantastic passes, but the Sharks played that third period like they didn't care. That isn't to say that they definitely did not care, that's just the best way to put it metaphorically. It's stupid to insinuate that they actually didn't, but there was not a lot to like about the Sharks play in that third period.

Alex Burrows drove the net and sent Kevin Bieksa a beautiful feed that tied the game. This was followed by a Dany Heatley penalty for elbowing (which may or may not have been a good call, certainly doesn't look like there's any intent there, appeared incidental, but Heatley isn't the kind of player to ever get the benefit of the doubt) and one of the best cross-ice passes of these playoffs from Christian Ehrhoff to Henrik Sedin, who buries it to gie the Canucks the lead. 

The other two goals were scored by Joe Thornton, when he got things started in the first intercepting a mis-played puck by Luongo to fire it in unassisted, and Maxim Lapierre, who scored early in the second, taking advantage of yet another mis-played puck, this one by Niemi. Speaking of Niemi, to his credit, he looked good once again, but was not helped much by his team.  He stopped 35-of-38 for a .921%, while Luongo stopped 27-of-29 for a .931%.

How discouraged should the Sharks be, when it all comes down to it? They really are the only ones who can answer that kind of question, but they have a couple days to sit on it. The Canucks did not change really anything about their game going into the third period, the Sharks just stopped fighting for the puck, and stopped playing with urgency. They were already slightly on their heels early on in the game, going with the dump-and-chase, sans the chase.

Below is the full bit of notes I took during the game, just to give a bit of a play-by-play. These notes are unedited.

FIRST PERIOD
Sharks win the faceoff after much jockeying, and the two teams exchange time in eachothers' zone. Through four minutes, neither team is giving up any solid opportunities, there's no terrible giveaways, etc. The Canucks get in on Antti Niemi a few times, but he makes solid saves. San Jose seems like they're more content to dump the puck away for some reason. At 10:51, Douglas Murray is called for hi sticking and the Sharks are on a penalty kill. The Sharks play well within their own zone and kill the penalty without getting as many clears as you might think. No shots on goal for the Canucks on that power play.  Then, Ben Eager goes to the box for interference and it's another weak call in which he was making run-of-the-mill contact and the Canucks player hit Roberto Luongo, so the Canucks are on another power play. It's very physical play thus far, the matchups from a player-to-player standpoint are all hard-fought. Near the end of the period, Luongo goes behind the net to play the puck, and sends it toward one of his players, but it's stolen by Joe Thornton, who shoots it immediately and gets it between the pads of a diving and sliding Luongo. The period ends with the Sharks being outshot 11-10, outhit 15-12, and losing in the circle 12-5. However, it was a very balanced period, the Sharks need to do a better job when entering the Vancouver zone, they're dumping pucks in from far, far back.

SECOND PERIOD
Balanced play for the first minute or so, but the Canucks get on the board quickly. The Sharks are sloppy in their own zone and they lose sight of Maxim Lapierre, who is in front of Niemi and taps it in before anybody sees him. Niemi made the bad choice to play the puck up the boards, and thats where the Sharks lost sight of it. Following the goal, Kent Huskins is called for hooking and the Sharks are on a penalty kill once again. The power play is uneventful though, and the Sharks get the kill without any solid chances by the Canucks. That's three power plays for Vancouver, and none for San Jose, and I say that right as a Sharks player gets cross checked in front of Luongo and the referees don't call it. The Sharks pass it back and forth in their own zone and wait for it, letting the Canucks come in. Then, Joe Pavelski is lit up in the neutral zone by Chris Higgins, and shortly after that, Mason Raymond goes to the penalty box for holding. Near the end of the power play, Dan Boyle puts a soft wrister on the net, and Patrick Marleau taps it in to put the Sharks up 2-1. With five minutes to go, the Sharks are keeping good pressure on and playing much better hockey in comparison to the first period. The Canucks get a could good opportunities with five minutes to go, then the Sharks get some of their own for about a minute, and the Canucks get a couple more opportunities. There's about a ten second battle right in front of Antti Niemi, who makes two great saves with very limited space, and then the Canucks set up another chance and Niemi has to make another great save. San Jose is really out of sorts with under two minutes to go, they need a puck stoppage and eventually they get one. The end of the period is dominated by a swarming Canucks team, but Niemi really comes up big and the period ends with San Jose having dominated at least 15 minutes of it. The Canucks still out-shoot the Sharks 25-22, but San Jose had a 13-5 margin in the faceoffs to 18-17 overall.

THIRD PERIOD
San Jose is aggressive early on and Luongo is forced to make a big save early on. Then, the Canucks get started with their lower lines, the only line to score at this point, and they force Niemi to make a great kick save. San Jose looks like they're going into a pseudo defense mode and don't attack the puck in Vancouver's zone for the first four minutes of play. Eventually, that level of play hurts the Sharks, and the Canucks set up a great pass to tie the game. Alex Burrows drives the net and feeds Kevin Bieksa, who buries it. Then, Dany Heatley goes to the box for elbowing Raffi Torres and the Sharks are on another penalty kill. The power play comes through and the Canucks take the lead Henrik Sedin gets the goal. The Canucks are playing like a team is supposed to with a one-goal lead: they're attacking and keeping aggressive, which the Sharks neglected to do coming into the third period. They continue to attack and the Sharks really only have one scoring chance, with about five minutes left, when Kyle Wellwood put the puck at the net. With under three minutes to go, Dan Boyle goes to the box and then Lapierre goes as well for embellishing. The Sharks go with the empty net during the 4-on-4, but they continue their style of "dump and chase" that hasn't worked all game. They lose, 3-2.    

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