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Miller, Canucks hang on to edge Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- Timing was everything Thursday for the Vancouver Canucks against the San Jose Sharks.

The Canucks were clinging to a one-goal lead in the final frantic seconds of the third period when Sharks center Joe Thornton fired a desperation shot from close range past goaltender Ryan Miller.

The ruling on the ice was that Thornton had scored the game-tying goal. But after a video review, the goal was waved off, with officials ruling the puck crossed the goal line after time had expired.

Instead of heading to overtime, the Canucks escaped with a 3-2 victory and two points. Vancouver has won six of its past seven games.

"I knew time was going to expire, which was maybe why I got myself a little out of position trying to seal against a bank shot from my left," Miller said. "And then they threw it off our guy across, and then I was stuck. I got fortunate that we ran out of time to play, and it worked out in our favor."

Radim Vrbata, Alexander Edler and Nick Bonino each scored a goal for the Canucks, but Miller received much of the credit for Vancouver's victory.

"Tonight we were lucky," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "Our goaltender played real good tonight. That's not a game we deserved to win. We were lucky to get it."

Miller stopped 34 shots and improved to 8-1-1 for his career against the Sharks. It was Miller's first win against San Jose since signing with Vancouver as a free agent in the summer.

The Sharks outshot the Canucks 36-19 for the game and 15-8 in the first period. Miller rejected five quality chances within the first two minutes. He also got help from his teammates, who blocked 25 shots.

James Sheppard and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. Goaltender Antti Niemi, making his fifth straight start, made 16 saves.

The Canucks overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 and moved ahead when Edler and Bonino scored back-to-back goals late in the second period.

The Sharks put little pressure on Miller in the third period until going on the power play at 13:08 with Jannik Hansen in the penalty box for interference. Miller stopped both shots on goal to help the Canucks killed the penalty.

Niemi left the ice with 1:35 left in the third, and the Sharks turned up the pressure. Tommy Wingels fired a desperate shot toward the net from the right circle with less than five seconds left, and the puck found its way to Thornton, who was just left of the crease. Thornton took a sharp-angled wrist shot that beat Miller, but it went in a split second after the horn.

"The puck went in, it just happened to not be within the 60-minute time frame," Thornton said. "It was one of those things where you couldn't really tell. Only if we had another half-second, I think we could have been all right. It felt like this one got away from us. We felt like we played good for 60 minutes and deserved two points."

Sheppard, centering the Sharks' new-look third line, gave San Jose a 1-0 lead at 10:26 of the first period on his second goal, second in the past two games.

Forward Tyler Kennedy, who was activated from injured reserve and made his season debut Thursday, fired a cross-ice pass to Tomas Hertl in the left circle. Hertl sent the puck through traffic toward the net, and it deflected off of Sheppard's skate and past Miller.

Vancouver answered with Vrbata's unassisted goal with eight seconds left in the period. Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan fired a hard shot that Miller deflected off the glass. The puck ricocheted the other way and hopped past Thornton to Vrbata, igniting a 2-on-1 break. Vrbata raced down the right boards and beat Niemi to the far side from the right circle.

"Playing here, it's tough," Vrbata said. "First 10 minutes we have to survive those, then give yourself a chance. It was a 1-1 game. We were able to tie it there. [Miller] kept us in it. He gave us a chance. We were able to capitalize on a couple of chances and we got two points. That's what counts."

Couture pushed the Sharks back ahead 2-1 with his team-high seventh goal, this one on the power play from the slot at 10:43 of the second period. Patrick Marleau sent a cross-ice pass to Joe Pavelski in the right circle. Pavelski zipped a pass to Couture, and he redirected the puck inside the left post before Miller could recover.

The Canucks pulled even on Edler's power-play goal at 12:45, a wicked slap shot from the right point through traffic that beat Niemi to the far side.

"We competed hard, but I think we could go a little harder," Kennedy said. "I think we've really got to bear down. There was kind of a switch in the game, I don't know when it was, but they started to get pucks deep. That's what we needed to do in the second and third, get pucks deep and work their D."

Bonino put Vancouver ahead 3-2 with his team-high seventh goal at 17:20 of the second period. Hertl's stick snapped on a long shot that Alexandre Burrows easily blocked, igniting a Canucks rush the other way. Burrows, who returned to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension for his hit on the Montreal Canadiens' Alexei Emelin on Oct. 30, got the puck to Bonino, who skated past Hertl and ripped a shot past Niemi.

"It proves your resiliency here," Bonino said of the victory. "We come in and play probably two of our worst periods of the year, but we had [Miller] back there shutting the door and keeping us in the game. We’ve been a third-period team all year. We came out and I thought that was our best period by far. We played well defensively and got the puck in there."

Going into the game, the Sharks had won 10 of the past 11 games against the Canucks, including a sweep in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game Thursday was the first this season between Vancouver and San Jose.

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