SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Sharks had stressed the importance of staying out of the penalty box Friday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals after getting scorched by Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the power play in a Game 2 loss to Vancouver.
That plan worked to perfection for the Sharks in the first period as they built a 3-0 lead. Then the second period began, and the penalties returned. In a span of less than nine minutes, the Sharks were hit with four penalties, as Joe Pavelski, Andrew Desjardins, Joe Thornton and Desjardins again paraded to the penalty box.
But instead of having another penalty kill meltdown, the Sharks prevailed during that critical stretch. They killed all four of those second-period penalties, including two when the Canucks had 5-on-3 advantages. And instead of blowing part or all of their lead, which their leaky penalty kill in Game 2 suggested they might do, the Sharks took their 3-0 edge into the third period and held on for a 4-3 win.
During most of that 5-on-3 time, Pavelski and defensemen Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were on the ice with goaltender Antti Niemi.
Pavelski, Murray and Vlasic formed a tight triangle of bodies in front of Niemi. The shots that did get past that wall, Niemi handled.
"It's tough," Vlasic said. "You're just trying to stay in a small triangle, blocking all the shots, getting in lanes. Murray and Pavelski blocked five each, I think. So it was huge. They're going up and down. I'm going side to side, just getting in lanes, and Nemo made a nice save once or twice. We limited their chances 5-on-3, but guys did a great job blocking shots."
Murray had five blocks for the game, while Pavelski had three and Vlasic two.
"Obviously you can't cover everything," Murray said. "You've just got to block as many shots as you can when they're taking them. I think we did a good job of that. Whatever went through, Nemo took care of."
The key to the Sharks' success against Vancouver's 5-on-3 onslaught was for the defensemen to stay in a tight group in front of Niemi, Murray said.
"If you spread it out too much you can't recover and they can make plays through the box," Murray said. "We're trying to make sure – I mean somebody's going to be open, it's 5-on-3 – whatever shots they're taking we can block them or Nemo doesn't move too much side to side. Tried to make it as easy of shots as possible."
In Game 2, Vancouver had three power play goals in seven chances, with Daniel Sedin scoring twice with the man advantage, and Henrik Sedin assisting on both goals.
"It was great adjustment there on the 5-on 3," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "They were bombing away. It's tough to get too much done when you've only got three guys, so all you've got to do is hope and block shots, and that's what we did."