VANCOUVER -- The first words out of Kevin Bieksa's mouth were, "Let's go to the Cup, baby."
The Vancouver Canucks are headed to the Stanley Cup Final because Bieksa scored on a knuckling shot that seemed to surprise everyone inside Rogers Arena 10:18 into double overtime Tuesday night. Bieksa's goal, his fifth of the playoffs and easily the biggest of his career, gave Vancouver a 3-2 win against San Jose and the Western Conference championship.
He fired home a bouncing puck that came off the partition a few strides into the offensive zone. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi admitted he lost sight of the puck and thought it went behind the goal, but by the time he looked up and got back in his crease Bieksa's shot was waffling past him and into the net.
Bieksa met with the media in the celebratory dressing room following the win and spoke all about it:
Q: Did you see the puck coming toward you? Did you know you would have a chance to T it up there?
Bieksa: It just kind of died right in the slot so I stepped into it. It was a rolling puck so I shot it, but I think when it went in the goalie was looking behind the net. It's an ugly goal but definitely one you'll take.
Q: How does this moment feel?
Bieksa: Obviously it feels unbelievable. To go to the Stanley Cup Final is a dream come true, and to do it with this group of guys -- our core has been here for seven or eight years working toward something special and we have a huge opportunity in front of us.
Q: Were there some anxious moments because San Jose was real good tonight?
Bieksa: They were very good. They came out and you could tell they wanted to win this one. We were resilient again, got a goal at the end of the period to bring it to overtime and just grinding one out. Lu (Roberto Luongo) was big for us when we needed him to be. He stood on his head and bought us some time.
Q: It was like they stopped playing before you scored. Do you understand what went on out there?
Bieksa: Most people lost the puck. I think it hit the partition and kicked right out to the slot. I just one-timed it on net and not many people knew where it was. It was just a knuckleball. I barely got enough on it to put it on net. It was a hard puck to shoot. It was probably the ugliest goal of my career, but the biggest.
Q: What about Luongo's night?
Bieksa: He played unbelievable, unbelievable for us. He was big early in the game when we needed him. He was huge in the second. He was huge in overtime when they were in our zone for it seemed like shifts at a time. He made some enormous saves for us.
Q: What does it mean to you that you will be playing for the Stanley Cup?
Bieksa: It's a big surreal right now. It's still fresh, but it's something you work for for your entire life and it's going to be fun to go with this group of guys.