Both the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks entered the third round with a perfect Game 1 record during the 2011 playoffs. Only one team left Rogers Arena on Sunday with their record still intact.
The Canucks took a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 victory over the Sharks. After almost a week since their clincher against the Nashville Predators, the Canucks didn’t miss a beat.
“We got a few days of rest and a few days of good practice and that certainly helped,” explained Daniel Sedin.
Joe Thornton was the first to crack the scoresheet at 18:27 of the first period, giving the Sharks a 1-0 advantage heading into intermission. The Canucks’ third line answered quickly in the second but as the period ended, the home team once again trailed by a goal. With 20 minutes of play to go, the Canucks remained unfazed.
“When you have a good team I think it’s easier,” said Daniel. “When we’re down we’ve been able to come back because we have a lot of offensive talent. When we’re up we’ve been able to play that good defensive game. It all comes from having a good team.”
The Canucks dominated in the third period, with Kevin Bieksa scoring a game-tying goal at 7:02. Henrik Sedin notched the game-winner 79 seconds later.
The win and strong play down the stretch in Game 1 earned the Canucks an optional practice Monday. Twelve players took to the ice, including Tanner Glass, Aaron Rome, Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich and Maxime Lapierre, the only players of the group to appear in Game 1.
The Canucks will face the Sharks for Game 2 on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. PST at Rogers Arena.
Third Time’s the Charm
Making the transition from one team to another is a challenge for any player.
Just ask Maxime Lapierre -- he’s done it twice this season.
“When you come into a new team, especially when you get traded twice in one year, it’s tough mentally,” said Lapierre, who scored his first goal of the post-season in Game 1. “You’ve got to clean out your head before you have success on the ice.”
Consider his head cleaned. Lapierre has been a major contributor on the third line, providing energy, taking faceoffs and getting on the scoresheet.
Both Lapierre and Chris Higgins were acquired at the trade deadline to add to Vancouver’s offensive depth. The pair adapted quickly to playing on the West Coast and have been huge assets during the post-season.
“I think the fact that they, at points, played in a Canadian environment where they knew the demands of a Canadian market made their transition here a little smoother,” commented coach Alain Vigneault. “They started off on the fourth line and due to different circumstances they were able to get a bigger role and find a way to contribute and help this team win.”
Lapierre is now playing on the third line, in the third round, on his third team of the season. As the saying goes, good things come in three.
The official dimensions of an NHL ice surface are 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. That’s 17,000 square feet of playing surface.
At the end of the second period, the only place that mattered was San Jose’s crease.
Sticks flying, goalie sprawling, and one puck that wouldn’t….go…in….
Alex Burrows watched it all happen from the bench.
“There were d-men right on top of the crease, guys were battling and trying to dig in for that loose puck.”
The “mad scramble” happened during the dying minutes of the second period when Ryan Kesler tipped a shot from the blue line into Antti Niemi, starting a feeding frenzy for the loose puck.
Five Sharks players, one Shark goalie, and five Canucks crashed the San Jose crease, leaving Roberto Luongo as the only man on the ice not digging for the puck.
“At times you didn’t even know where the puck was,” recalled Mason Raymond. “You were just prodding away at the goalie and hoping for a good bounce. Fans were on their feet and as a player, that’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The good bounce never came but the scramble still worked in the Canucks’ favour.
“We put some pressure and created some momentum for our team,” said Burrows.
Coach Vigneault agreed. “I felt that it changed the tide as far as us taking momentum and keeping momentum from then on.”
In the final three minutes of the second period, the Canucks recorded 7 shots on net. The Canucks held onto the momentum throughout the third period, winning the game 3-2.