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Sharks grab series opener in B.C.
SJ takes 3-1 decision over Canucks
5/1/13 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks opened the 2013 NHL Playoffs the way everyone in the Bay Are hoped they would. With a win. The 6th seeded Sharks grabbed a 1-0 lead in their best of seven series with the Vancouver Canucks by scoring a pair of 3rd period goals en route to a 3-1 win at Rogers Arena. San Jose played a solid all-around game and took advantage of their opportunities when it mattered. The Canucks, who entered the series as the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, have 48 hours to regroup and try to find a way to gat pucks past Antti Niemi. The Sharks goaltender made 29 saves and only surrendered a goal when Raffi Torres pushed a puck into his own net.

Niemi was solid all night long, stopping everything the Canucks threw at him. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo wasn't as lucky.

Luongo started for Vancouver after regular starter Cory Schneider was shelved with what Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault called a "body injury." Schneider missed the last two games of the regular season for the Canucks, and couldn't answer the bell on Wednesday night.

Luongo's performance wasn't perfect, but it wasn't horrible either. If not for a flurry of stops by Luongo in the 1st period, the Canucks may have found themselves trailing early. San Jose generated more than half of their shots in that opening period, fueled largely by a pair of power play chances.

Winger Dale Weise made a trip to the box for popping James Sheppard in the head with a gloved fist after the two tangled following a whistle. The Sharks challenged Luongo on the power play, but the much maligned goaltender made several big stops.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa was sent off for interference after pinning Logan Couture to the boards on a dump in play, but again Luongo denied San Jose. The teams skated off deadlocked in a scoreless tie after 20 minutes, even though the Sharks controlled most of the period.

The 2nd period would be a different story.

The Canucks began to pressure Niemi, working the puck to the front of the net on a frequent basis. Vancouver finally cracked the score sheet at 12:26 after a scrum in front of the Sharks net ended with the puck sliding under both Niemi and Logan Couture who was sitting on the goal line. Jannik Hansen was originally awarded the goal, but the official scorer later credited Bieksa. It was Torres who appeared to try and tap the puck back toward his goaltender, but there were so many bodies strewn in the crease, that it was tough to discern who touched it. Couture saw the puck sliding toward him and his attempts to glove it out were late.

The Canucks also clamped down on the Sharks in the defensive zone, limiting San Jose to 6 shots in the period. Thankfully for the Sharks one of those shots got past Luongo.

Zack Kassian took a not so well thought out roughing penalty with 4 minutes left in the period, putting the Sharks back on the power play for the third time. San Jose used all of 35 seconds on the ensuing man-advantage when Couture rifled a shot from the slot that beat Roberto Luongo to the top left corner of the Vancouver net.

The goal was important, because it got the Sharks right back into the game, and put a little doubt into Luongo's head. That doubt would turn into a bona fide nightmare for Vancouver.

San Jose went to work right before the midway mark of the 3rd period. Joe Pavelski started the game-winning scoring sequence at 9:17, by beating Dan Hamhuis to a loose puck in the left corner, then sending a backhand shot from the left wing boards on net. Luongo was there to make the stop, but he couldn't glove the puck as Tommy Wingels tried stabbing at it from outside the left post. Wingels was able to slide the puck to the right side, splitting Mason Raymond's skates, right onto Dan Boyle's stick. Boyle snapped a wrist shot from 1 feet out, into a wide open net for the 2-1 Sharks lead.

Couture made the pass of the night five minutes later, sending a backhand pass into the slot from the end boards as Jason Garrison bore down on him to apply a hit. Patrick Marleau floated through the slot, receiving Couture's pass, then sliding the puck past Luongo for the 3-1 lead. Marleau appeared to knuckle the puck, but it slipped inside the right post.

Vigneault was forced to pull Luongo with 1:43 to play, but the Canucks couldn't solve Niemi.

IT wasn't all wine a roses for the Sharks, who lost forward Martin Havlat to an undisclosed injury midway through the 2nd period. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan would not offer up an update on Havlat's condition after the game.

Havlat has two days to mend whatever ailment he sustained, as both teams face each other again in British Columbia on Friday night.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 1 2 3
VAN 0 1 0 1
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, VAN, Bieksa 1 (unassisted), 12:26. 2, SJ, Couture 1 (Pavelski, Boyle), 16:35, (pp).
3rd period - 3, SJ, Boyle 1 (Wingels, Pavelski), 9:17. 4, SJ, Marleau 1 (Couture, Vlasic), 14:37.
Penalties
1st period - Weise, VAN (high sticking), 2:36; Bieksa, VAN (interference), 18:21.
2nd period - Desjardins, SJ (boarding), 1:50; Irwin, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 7:16; Vlasic, SJ (roughing), 12:26; Bieksa, VAN (roughing), 12:26; Kassian, VAN (roughing), 16:00.
3rd period - Hamhuis, VAN (hooking), 1:22.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 30 29
VAN - Luongo 28 25
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 15 6 7 28
VAN 9 14 8 30
Power Play Conversion
SJ 1 of 4
VAN 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Logan Couture
Roberto Luongo
Dan Boyle
Attendence
18,910
Officials
Referees: Furlatt, St Laurent. Linesmen: Miller, Wheler.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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