Skip to main content


Sharks have to play smarter in Game 3

by Dave Lozo /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Discipline has been a problem for the Sharks during the Western Conference Final. Just ask Ben Eager.

"You got to stay out of the box," said Eager, who had 20 penalty minutes during Game 2 against the Canucks. "Vancouver has a great power play, and they showed it a few times last night what they can do with it. I have to play on the right side of the line."

The problem for Eager -- and the Sharks as a whole -- is they were so far to the left side of the line during their 7-3 loss at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night that left them in a 2-0 series hole that the line was only rumored to exist. They couldn't even see the line.

The Canucks received seven power-play chances and converted on three of them. With the Sharks down by just a goal late in the second period, Patrick Marleau decided to drop the gloves and fight Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. It was Marleau's first fight since December 2007.

Not long after Marleau's fight, Eager hit Daniel Sedin from behind to draw a two-minute boarding penalty, which the Sharks were able to kill off. 

The Sharks totaled 53 penalty minutes in Game 2, and Eager said he the two he regretted most led to the Canucks' fourth goal early in the third period.

"The tripping penalty, I'd like to have that back," said Eager, whose penalty led Chris Higgins' goal that made it 4-2. "It cost the team and kind of put the game out of hand."

Eager, however, stood by his hit on Sedin, which he admitted was a penalty.

"The hit on Sedin … it's playoff hockey," Eager said. "Checks are going to be finished. There was a penalty but no suspension. I'm happy about that. But I think in playoffs, good teams kill those penalties, and I think the guys did a good job killing that penalty off.

"Going there and putting the team shorthanded again with the tripping call, that's something I can't do. If I could take that back, I would."

Eager drew another penalty following his first goal of the postseason that cut the lead to 7-3. Following the goal, he had a few words for goaltender Robert Luongo, which set off a scrum that resulted in Eager getting a two-minute penalty for roughing.

There was another melee in the final seconds, but when it came time to discuss the Sharks' lack of discipline, coach Todd McLellan was more upset with what happened when the game was still in doubt.

"Obviously anybody that watched the game last night, we lost our composure," McLellan said. "We made far too many trips to the penalty box. That's often a result of frustration. It catches up with you. It was interesting because the game was still 3-2 halfway through the third period basically.

"I thought prior to that we already lost our composure. It wasn't like we lost it when it was 5-2 or 6-2.  We lost it at 3-2. That's not the sign of a team that can win a series. That has to get better."

McLellan didn't seem too upset Thursday about Eager's role in Wednesday night's loss.

"I thought Ben Eager was one of our better players as far the forecheck, creating scoring opportunities," McLellan said. "He had a number of shots on goal (4). He played with an energy and passion that was required of him

"Is he an asset or a liability? He was both last night.  If we can limit the liability part, we've got one heck of a player."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault on Thursday expressed his displeasure with Eager's role during Game 2, saying he felt there was malicious intent with the hit on Sedin.

"He's obviously running around trying to hurt people," Vigneault said. "He runs Danny from the back, a potential NHL MVP, ran our goaltender. Then their coach says that's the way he wants him to play.

"I just hope that nothing serious is going to happen on the ice, otherwise there are going to be some serious consequences to that."

When McLellan was confronted with that statement about his team's lack of discipline later in the day, he fired back at Vigneault. McLellan referenced the Blackhawks' blowout win against the Canucks in Game 4 of their first-round series this year, a game that saw three Canucks receive 10-minute misconducts with the game out of hand in the third period.

"What's interesting with that is that he's right, we were undisciplined in the third period. I'm the first to admit that, and our team has to be a lot better," McLellan said. "But, you know, I think it was a month ago today that Chicago beat them 7-2.  There was a lot going on on the ice at that time. Alain decided just to leave it at that. That's what we're choosing to do."

If the Sharks want to avoid falling into a 3-0 series hole, they'll need to avoid another parade to the penalty box. The Canucks had the NHL's top-ranked power play in the regular season and have scored on 25.5 percent of their chances during the playoffs.

"When it's in the conference finals, it's that much more intense," said Eager, who is facing the Canucks in the playoffs for a third straight year. "Sometimes games end up like last night. The good thing about the playoffs is you play again tomorrow. We'll just turn the page and be ready for tomorrow on home ice."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.