Eric Stephens| NHL.com Correspondent
--There was a reason why San Jose Sharks
general manager Doug Wilson brought in Dan Boyle
and Rob Blake to upgrade his blue line.
It wasn't to win a Pacific Division title or to rack up 53 wins and a League-best 117 points, although those were nice side benefits.
Boyle and Blake were brought in last summer because they have Stanley Cup rings and know what it's like to perform under the spotlight of the playoffs. With the Sharks' postseason lives in danger Tuesday night against the upstart Anaheim Ducks
, the two defensemen delivered in Game 3 of Western Conference quarterfinals.
Boyle scored two goals, Blake had one and both players assisted on Patrick Marleau
's game-winning goal midway through the third period of a clutch 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks
at the Honda Center.
"We got a huge contribution from our back end tonight," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe
said. "Boyle got two nice goals where he snuck in the back door. Blakey made a nice play on that shot-tip to Patty. They were great tonight. Not only on the scoresheet but in our own end.
"They're horses. They can obviously do that."
Neither Boyle nor Blake registered a point in the first two games at the Shark Tank -- a key reason that eighth-seeded Anaheim won both games to take a surprising 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series with 2-0 and 3-2 wins.
That all changed in Game 3.
Boyle had the first three-point night of his playoff career while Blake started the scoring and got the key assist on Marleau's goal as a once-productive San Jose power play awoke out of its slumber in a big way.
"We're happy with that offensive production from them, and they did a good job getting the puck to the net," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I thought that in our own zone, they played extremely well too."
Responding to another second-round defeat in last season’s playoffs, Wilson went out and got Boyle from Tampa Bay when the Lightning appeared to head in a different direction after signing the skilled defenseman to a long-term contract extension.
After the July free-agent period opened, Wilson moved on the 39-year-old Blake and signed the longtime Los Angeles King and one-time Norris Trophy winner to a one-year deal.
The two moves paid off big time when the Sharks needed to win on the road to avoid going down 3-0.
Boyle snapped the Sharks’ 0-for-13 drought on the power play when he worked his way down to the slot and converted Joe Thornton
's slick feed from behind the net to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead in the first period.
After Anaheim's James Wisniewski scored late in the first period to make it 2-2, Boyle put the Sharks back on top 1:05 into the second when he banged in a puck that trickled toward him after Joe Pavelski
won a battle in front of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller
"I take it upon myself to make a difference out there," Boyle said. "We got off to a good start today, which was huge. We got the first goal and just kind of went from there. We're happy, but there's a lot of work left to be done here."
Brad Lukowich certainly isn't surprised, having won the Cup with Boyle in Tampa before coming to San Jose in the same July trade.
"Danny's a big-game player," Lukowich said. "He's been there all season long. He really had a big game tonight. Yesterday in practice, he was focused and ready to go. It showed."
Blake set up the decisive goal when he received the puck from Boyle on the power play -- which occurred as a result of Corey Perry
's hooking penalty on Boyle in the neutral zone. Blake saw Marleau in the slot and timed his slap pass perfectly, enabling Marleau to redirect the puck past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller
"The power play moved it around pretty good," Marleau said. "We jumped on loose pucks that we weren't jumping on before. Basically, Blakey made the play off my tip, off my stick for the redirect. It was a great play by Blakey."
The offensive outburst made Hiller look human after the 26-year-old Swiss netminder stopped 77 of 79 shots in the first two games, including a 35-save shutout performance in his playoff debut.
"I just like the way we responded. They came back and scored every time. We stuck to our guns and we showed some character. We came here for two." -- Dan Boyle
"To be honest with you, I’m kind of sick and tired of talking about their goaltending," Boyle said. "He's a good goalie. We all know that, even though it's his first year in the playoffs.
“I just like the way we responded. They came back and scored every time. We stuck to our guns and we showed some character. We came here for two."
Now it's the Ducks who know they have to step up their game -- or risk allowing the Sharks to take back the home-ice edge.
"I think that we didn’t play to the level that we’ve played in the two previous games," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "I just don’t think we were happy with our team game in a lot of areas. It wasn’t like they didn’t try. They just didn’t execute."
It was a combination of Sharks that got the job done but hand it to the group of Douglas Murray
, Mike Grier, Joe Pavelski
, Milan Michalek, Travis Moen and Christian Ehrhoff, which protected a 4-3 victory by not allowing the Ducks to get a shot on goal after Anaheim pulled goalie Jonas Hiller
for an extra attacker.
As he did in the first two games, Douglas Murray
delivered big hits all night with Ducks wingers Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan
being regular targets. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Murray was so effective that Anaheim enforcer George Parros
had to respond by fighting him in the first period, the first tussle in the series.
Drew Miller had a rough shift on the Sharks’ initial goal in the first period. Miller’s clearing pass deep in the Anaheim zone was picked off by San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. Vlasic slid the puck along the blue line to defense partner Rob Blake, whose shot went off Miller’s skate as he defended against Patrick Marleau
skating in front of the net.
’s first goal of the night broke an 0-for-13 drought for San Jose on the power play in the series. The Sharks had gone 0-for-6 in each of the first two games, a big reason why they took a 2-0 series deficit to Anaheim. Boyle’s three-point night was the first in his postseason career.
Not only did the Sharks finally solve Jonas Hiller
, but Hiller wasn’t as sharp in Game 3 as he was in the first two. The Ducks’ netminder, so cool and confident in Games 1 and 2, seemed to fight the puck all evening as he often struggled to secure it even on the easier saves he made. With four goals Tuesday night, San Jose knows Hiller can be beat.