|SJS Lead Series 2 - 0|
VANCOUVER – Raffi Torres wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.
Robbed of what looked like a sure goal by the diving glove of former teammate Roberto Luongo in the second period, Torres made no mistake when he got a second chance in overtime, roofing a 2-on-1 pass from Brent Burns over the sprawling goalie as the San Jose Sharks stunned the Vancouver Canucks with a 3-2 win Friday night.
Patrick Marleau tied the game with 55.1 seconds left in regulation and Antti Niemi pulled for the extra attacker, setting the stage for Torres to give San Jose a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal series against his old team.
Alexander Edler, who hit the crossbar 1:14 into overtime, had his shot blocked by Burns, who raced the other way, holding the puck until he was below the right circle before passing across to Torres, who hit the wide-open net at 5:31 of the extra period.
"They teach us a young kid go to the net with your stick on the ice and your head down and be ready for anything," said Torres, who was part of the Canucks' run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. "I didn't see it go in or anything like that. I just made sure my stick was on the ice and got some good wood on it."
Joe Thornton also scored and Niemi made 29 saves for the Sharks, who can take a stranglehold on the series by winning Game 3 at HP Pavilion on Sunday night (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).
"You hope you come in here and try to get one. Now we have two," said Thornton, adding there was no panic on the Sharks bench they were behind in the final minute. "We're a bunch of veterans,. All of us have played in so many playoff games, the calmness is scary sometimes. Everybody felt good."
It will be hard for the Canucks to feel good after coming so close.
"It's a tough loss, obviously a heartbreaker, but that's what playoffs is all about," said Luongo, who finished with 30 saves, many of them spectacular.
They were one minute and a couple inches away from winning in regulation and evening the series, but instead travel to San Jose facing the same situation as last season: a two-game deficit in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing the first two at home. To send the series back to Vancouver, they have to find a way to win a game in San Jose, where the Sharks have been dominant -- they lost only twice in regulation in 24 games during the regular season.
"We play the same way we did tonight, it's as easy as that," said Ryan Kesler, who scored twice in the first seven minutes of the third period to give the Canucks the lead. "I'm proud of the way the guys battled tonight, battled all over the ice and just came up short. I thought we deserved better. It's tough the way it ended, but saying that we got move on and focus on Game 3. It's 0-0 again and we can easily turn this series around with one game."
The third period belonged to Kesler -- until the final minute.
"He was out best player by far," Luongo said. "Playing physical and scoring two big goals. We're going to need more of that heading into San Jose."
Slowed by the flu in Game 1, Kesler started with a huge hit on Justin Braun late in the second period, tied it on a power-play one-timer 59 seconds into the third, then put the Canucks ahead with an unassisted goal after a bad turnover at 7:06
With Andrew Desjardins in the penalty box for tripping and Kesler at the point, a switch made earlier in the game, Henrik Sedin fed back to Kesler for a one-timer that Niemi never saw, waving blindly as it went by his glove.
Vancouver took the lead six minutes later after Dan Boyle's pass from behind his net deflected off Joe Pavelski cutting through the middle and came right to Kesler in the high slot. He wired a rising slap shot past Niemi's blocker, setting off a raucous celebration from the sellout crowd of 18,910 at Rogers Arena.
But the crowd was stunned late when Marleau spoiled the party.
After Jannik Hansen shot just wide of the empty net from center ice, Henrik Sedin threw the puck up the middle in his own end, setting off a sequence that ended with Luongo stopping Marleau on a one-timer from the slot -- only to have the puck trickle out behind him and Marleau race in to poke it over the goal line.
"It was a bang-bang play, went off our D-man's shin pad right to [Marleau's] stick, and I thought I got down in time to have it between my legs. But it just snuck behind me and was laying there, and their guy banged it in," Luongo said.
That it was Marleau, who has taken a lot of criticism for past playoff failures in San Jose, was fitting, coach Todd McLellan said.
"All I've seen him do in five years is score big goals in the playoffs," McLellan said. "Fortunately, it snuck in behind and Patty stuck with it."
Luongo was brilliant early, stopping TJ Galiardi on a breakaway in tight and Marleau on a one-timer from the slot – both on passes from Logan Couture – during a power play. He robbed Galiardi again on a rebound, but the Sharks finally put one behind him on a scramble three minutes later, with Thornton winning a battle in the corner and feeding back to the point, then swatting in a bouncing rebound atop the crease while being knocked down.
The second period was all about both goalies being great – and lucky.
Thornton hit the post with an empty net in front of him, and Joe Pavelski appeared to make it 2-0 when he lifted in his own rebound past Luongo on a 2-on-1 six minutes into the period. But referee Tom Kowal waved off the goal immediately because Tommy Wingels, who may have been pushed, ran into Luongo, pushing the goalie off-balance as Pavelski lifted the puck over him.
At the other end, Niemi wasn't showing any rust after a sleepy first period. He gloved Alexandre Burrows' slap shot on a 2-on-1, robbed Daniel Sedin alone in front on a scramble, and stopped Andrew Ebbett on another 2-on-1.
Not to be outdone, Luongo dove headfirst across the crease to get a glove on another empty net attempt by Torres at the side of the net. Torres, bumped up to play with Logan Couture and Marleau in place of injured Martin Havlat, didn't miss the second time, but he wasn't rubbing it in.
"Luongo has been great the first two games," Torres said. "He's given that team a chance to win. He's a great goalie. He does a hell of a job blocking all the garbage that is said about him. You know he will bounce back"
It won't be easy in San Jose, but captain Henrik Sedin was stressing positives.
"I'd rather lose in overtime playing a good game than lose 7-1," he said. "We've got to take the positives and go down there and play the same way. It's a tough building to go into, but we gotta believe in ourselves. We have the team in here to do it."
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