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Power play fuels fast start for Sharks

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Sharks built a strong foundation in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Finals by scoring the first goal but never built on it.  They got another strong start in Game 3 thanks to Patrick Marleau's early power-play goal -- but this time they kept piling on the goals and built up to the roof.

San Jose needed a strong first period to tilt the momentum in this series that was so far on the Canucks' side after two games that some people around here were already worried about a sweep. The Sharks got exactly what they wanted Friday night, and 40 minutes later San Jose closed within one victory of the Canucks in the series by holding on for a 4-3 win at HP Pavilion.

Marleau sandwiched two goals around Ryane Clowe's first of the series in the first period. But more than just dominating with two goals on the three power plays the Canucks offered them, the Sharks outplayed Vancouver in both ends to take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

"The crowd gives you a bit of a lift but we played with a lot of energy, we skated well, we got some 2-on-1s, some breakaways, we put pucks in places where they couldn't get it back," Clowe said. "We executed. It was really us playing our game and the jump and energy was different from the last two games."

The Sharks not only led 2-0 but were outshooting Vancouver 15-1 at the television timeout with 5:49 to play in the first period.

When the game resumed after the commercial break, fourth-liners Jamie McGinn and Jamal Mayers had a 2-on-1 chance barely snuffed out by Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, who raced back into the defensive zone after coughing up the puck.

The Canucks finally got off a couple of shots during a shift by Ryan Kesler's line, but soon after Marleau raced in on a breakaway and blasted a shot past Roberto Luongo into the top right corner to give San Jose a 3-0 lead on its 16th and final shot of the period.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the final tallies of 3-0 on the scoreboard and 16-8 on the shot board were a direct result of the penalties, including the roughing minor Maxim Lapierre took 2:03 into the game and the double minor for high sticking issued to Christian Ehrhoff less than five minutes later when he accidentally cut Torrey Mitchell.

However, only seven of the Sharks' 16 shots came on the power play, and they did score an even-strength goal to go along with the other two that came with a Canuck in the box.

"They got going, too," Daniel Sedin told NHL.com. "When they score they feel good about themselves."

Of course, it would be foolish to think that the penalties weren't the Canucks' biggest downfall in the first period. They were because the Sharks capitalized and took a 2-0 lead 8:22 into the game.

Unlike in Games 1 and 2, when the Canucks were able to gather momentum despite being down a goal, they couldn't establish any rhythm within the first 12 minutes of the game because they spent half of them on the PK.

"Our strength is rolling our four lines," Bieksa said. "We feel like we have more depth than the other team, but when we're in and out of the box it's tough to get anything generated. It just really takes us out of our rhythm."

Give the Sharks credit for coming out with a strong pace and focus to generate their chances. It started on the first shift of the game when the maligned second line of Logan Couture, Dany Heatley and Clowe spent a good deal of time in the Canucks' zone and forced Vancouver to ice the puck 51 seconds in.

Seventy-two seconds later, Lapierre hit Ian White with a flying elbow, setting up the Sharks’ first power play. Marleau gained position in the slot and Joe Thornton found him for a one-timer from just outside the crease for a 1-0 lead 3:56 into the game.

"It's not just the power play, it's the people that draw the penalties that allow us to go out there and score those goals," Marleau said.

Ehrhoff was guilty of high sticking Mitchell at 6:50, setting up a four-minute power play. This time it was Clowe scoring at 8:22 on a rebound from the slot after Dan Boyle's low shot from the point made it through to Luongo.

"The power-play was very sharp," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Got us the lead. Eventually probably won us the game."

It did, but the Sharks also had the necessary focus for a team down 2-0 in a series.

"Individuals within our group spoke to you (the media) today about approaching it like Game 7. They obviously did that in the first period," McLellan said. "My answer to that was I'd like them to approach Games 1 through 7 like it was Game 7. We'll see if we can replicate that again on Sunday afternoon."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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