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Sharks have to stick with winning formula in Game 4

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Sharks came up with a winning formula Friday night against Vancouver in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, mixing equal parts desperation, physicality and composure in their 4-3 victory.

They'll try to replicate that blend Sunday in Game 4 at HP Pavilion (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), and they understand how steep the price will be if they revert to their uninspired, undisciplined form of their opening two games in Vancouver.

"You have to realize that you're still behind in the series," forward Ryane Clowe said Saturday after a brief but high-energy practice. "We won last night and, if anything, you set the bar high. You know how you got to play.

"With Vancouver kind of in control of the series after two games, people were saying this team has obviously got what it takes and are a lot better than the Sharks, and we showed how we could play last night. And now it's up to us, if we want to live up to that."

Captain Joe Thornton said recapturing that same Game 7-like urgency will be easy considering that the Canucks own a 2-1 series lead and have a chance to go up 3-1 Sunday with Game 5 back in Vancouver.

"They're still in control of the series," Thornton said. "That's' the reality. We've got to come out with desperation and try to get the first goal and get on them as quick as we can."

The Canucks still own the series lead, but the Sharks' physical play is starting to take its toll. Vancouver defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome both left with injuries Friday night on hits by Sharks forward Jamie McGinn and will likely miss Sunday's game.

McGinn earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his third-period hit on Rome, but after reviewing the hit, the league did not issue any supplemental discipline, so McGinn is available for Game 4.

In past postseasons, the Sharks were often criticized for lacking toughness and grit. Now they're throwing their weight around and hammering the Canucks.

"I'm not trying to hurt anyone, but I think it helps our team a lot," McGinn said of his physical play. "We're trying to get in on their defense, trying to wear them down. That's' why it's a seven game series and the first one to four (wins). Every game is important. Every hit and every shift is important."

McGinn's first-period hit on Ehrhoff ended the defenseman's night after just seven shifts.

"He's one of their top (defensemen), so any chance you have to get a lick in him you have to take it," McGinn said. "He pulled up and just kind of came across the ice. It was just shoulder to shoulder."

And the hit on Rome?

"I think I've looked at the hit 100 times," McGinn said. "I can't stress enough, I don't want to hurt anyone. I hope for a quick recovery for Rome. It's too bad that he got hurt on the play. I looked at it a bunch of times. I was closing, I tried to slow up and I hit him on the left shoulder. You can see both the 2 and the 9 on the back of his sweater, so I didn't hit him from behind. It's just one of those freak accidents where he hit his head on the glass. I didn't want that to happen."

In the Sharks' Game 2 loss at Vancouver, fourth-line forward Ben Eager was the team's poster-bully after delivering a huge hit on Daniel Sedin that earned him a two-minute penalty but no further discipline from the league.

Clowe said the Sharks' physical play can yield increasing benefits as the series wears on.

"If you can get in someone's head and they know you're coming and they know they're not going to have too much time with the puck and someone's going to be on their heels, if you can make them hear footsteps a little bit it's always nice," Clowe said. "Jamie got a couple hits last night. The one on Ehrhoff was him back-checking -- very good hit, clean hit. Obviously the other one where Rome got hurt, you don't want to see anyone get hurt.

"I think we did a better job of making their defense go back for pucks and play harder minutes for sure. You ask the defense, if they know the guys are coming hard, it makes them make quicker plays and plays under pressure, and it's a lot harder than what they were doing in Vancouver when they had a lot of time."

In their Game 2 loss, the Sharks lost their composure and wound up taking 13 penalties, and the Canucks took advantage, scoring three power-play goals. The Sharks and Canucks reversed roles Friday night -- Vancouver took 11 penalties and gave up three power-play goals, including two in the first period when San Jose took a 3-0 lead.

"Obviously we weren't very pleased with game No. 2, how many trips to the box we had," Clowe said. "We were obviously more disciplined and more poised last night and kept our cool. Sometimes it's hard in the playoffs when there's so much going on. It's easy to get all riled up and frustrated. We didn't do that last night. This time of year, sometimes you've got to take your licks and keep going."

Of course the Sharks have been getting in plenty of their own licks, too.

"That's part of the game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "You look at the scenarios. Christian Ehrhoff, a former Shark, we don't want to see him injured. But the fact is he is. The Rome hit, I think we expressed our concern last night for him as a player, as an individual. We don't want to see anybody injured. But that's part of the game at this time of the year. For all the bumps and bruises Vancouver has right now, we've got the same things going on. There's ice bags, there's treatments going on all over the place."

McLellan said that's the essence of playoff hockey, and he drew from history to illustrate his point. He pointed to a scene just minutes after the Islanders' victory over Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Final in 1983, their fourth straight title.

"I remember hearing a story about the Oilers walking by the Islanders' locker room," McLellan said. "Those guys were bleeding, they were taped up, there were ice bags everywhere, when they should have been celebrating a Stanley Cup championship.

"I think, if I remember the story correctly, that was the moment the Oilers needed to become their own dynasty, was to see that. If you're not hurt right now, if you're not banged, bruised, you're not sore, you're not tired, I guess the question would be: Why?"
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