The San Jose Sharks barely managed to hang on Friday night as they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd at HP Pavilion. Although the Sharks jumped on top early and looked ready to cruise to victory, third period miscues and a tough major penalty call against Jamie McGinn left this one in doubt until the end.
The Sharks poured on the goals early as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. San Jose grabbed two power play goals courtesy of Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe. Marleau followed that up with a breakaway goal and the Sharks looked like they were in excellent shape.
The second period seemed to show that even further as Sharks goalie Antti Niemi and the power play unit put on an absolute clinic over the final 5:33 of the period. Andrew Desjardins went into the penalty box at the 14:27 mark for holding and was soon followed by Joe Thornton, who was called for holding as well at the 15:01 mark.
The Canucks had close to a minute and a half of 5-on-3 but were unable to convert. Desjardins then came out of the penalty box to make it 5-on-4 but was almost immediately called for tripping. As Dejardins exited the box he ran into Ryan Kesler and was called for tripping. The Canucks got another stretch of 5-on-3 but were still unable to score. Over the course of the four minutes of some kind of advantage, the Canucks fired off 11 shots and had all of them turned away.
Then the third period started. 1:09 into the period the Canucks finally got on the board s Alex Burrows scored an unassisted goal. Five minutes later the Sharks returned the favor to get back their comfortable three goal lead, up 4-1 a quarter of the way into the period. A few minutes later things started to get crazy.
At the 11:22 mark of the third period, Jamie McGinn was called for boarding against Aaron Rome. The play resulted in a five minute major and a game misconduct that saw McGinn ejected from the contest. While it was probably a penalty-worthy call, it seems difficult to say it was worth ejecting McGinn. Whatever the case, Vancouver took full advantage of the five minute major as they netted two goals, one by Dan Hamhuis and one by Kevin Bieksa.
At this point Sharks fans had to be getting scared. This team has blown big leads a little too frequently for anybody’s comfort during the 2011 NHL playoffs. A quick search of twitter during this stretch will show a fanbase wracked with fear. Fortunately for Sharks fans, their boys held on and escaped with the victory. The Canucks had a couple chances late, but a penalty in the final minute ended any chance of forcing overtime.
The two squads will face off on Sunday in Game Four at 12:00pm pacific on NBC. Well, you know, assuming the world hasn’t come to an end before then. To enjoy the post-game celebration (or more likely big collective exhale), head on over to Fear The Fin.