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Special teams spark Canucks in Game 4

by Dan Rosen /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- When was the last time the same team that killed off five straight power plays within the first 24 minutes of a game then fire home three consecutive 5-on-3 goals in less than two minutes?

Well, it's never happened in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because the Canucks on Sunday became the first team in NHL history to score three 5-on-3 goals in the same game. If you wanted to go back to regular season hockey ... let's just not even try, OK?

Just know that it happened at HP Pavilion, and it's why Vancouver won Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals by a 4-2 margin and is 60 or more minutes away from reaching its first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.

Game 5 is back at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.

"We were really tested early and our guys were able to respond and get the job done," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "The 5-on-3 did what it was supposed to do."

But it was more than just the 5-on-3. The Canucks, after all, didn't just win the special teams battle in Game 4 -- they crushed the Sharks in the one area that has mattered most in this series.

San Jose scored four power play goals on its first four power play shots in the series and came into this game 46 percent with the man-advantage against the Canucks. Yet, it was the Canucks on Sunday shutting the Sharks power play down five straight times, holding it to only eight shots on goal, before finally getting the green light from the officials to go on the offensive.

Vancouver has killed off 12 of its last 13 penalties.

"We took what they gave us and what they gave us in the first was a lot of power plays," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We didn't get too down on the bench, we didn't complain to the referees. We stuck with it and got some good penalty kills. That built momentum for us."

It did, but things had to change on the power play for the Canucks to take advantage of that momentum. Remember, they failed to score on two 5-on-3s in Game 3 and it put a major dent into their comeback chances.

This time, the passing was much better from Henrik Sedin, who ran the 5-on-3 from the right side.

"I don't think it matters who is playing the point when he has the puck," Salo said of Henrik.

The shooting was also much harder and better timed from both Salo, who was at the top, and Ryan Kesler from the left circle.

"Look at last game's 5-on-3, we did exactly the same thing but they were blocking shots and we missed the net," Daniel Sedin said. "Today Sami got those looks and maybe the passing was a little bit better, too. He's a right-handed shot and he shoots as hard as anyone in the League. When he gets those looks and the puck to the net, it's going to go in."

The first goal went from Sedin to Salo to Kesler, who blasted a high stick side shot past Antti Niemi.

Salo didn't need to look for anybody else to score the next two goals. Henrik set him up with perfect passes and, using his powerful right-handed shot, a key to blasting a one-timer off a pass from the right side, Salo ripped a pair of shots past Niemi.

It was 3-0 Vancouver by the 11:11 mark of the second period. The game was essentially over, and the Sharks had only themselves to blame because not only was their power play inept, they gave them the 5-on-3s on an unnecessary hooking by Torrey Mitchell, a too many men on the ice and a delay of game by Douglas Murray, who shot the puck out of the rink.

"You're not giving up three 5-on-3 power play goals and coming back on that team," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It's just not happening."

McLellan admitted that the look they got from Salo on the 5-on-3 was different from what the Sharks saw in Game 3. Salo was more active and had the shoot-first mindset.

"Last game we had a pretty lengthy 5-on-3 and those guys were diving in the way of his shot," Bieksa said. "They smartened up a little bit and figured out that he has the hardest shot in the League and weren't as brave this time around. He scored a couple big goals because of it."

In fairness, the Sharks didn't really have a chance to go down to block his shots this time around because they came off his stick so fast and he was in better shooting position. The passes were on his tape.

"We made some changes. It opened up a lot of different options for us, for me as a passer," Henrik Sedin said. "Danny going through, they have to respect him back door. (Salo) made a great play to Kesler on the first goal, and then he took two great shots. When you give him that much time, he's going to usually score."

When you give the Sharks five power plays in 24 minutes, they're usually going to score as well. It didn't happen Sunday.

The Canucks had everything to do with that.

"It's huge momentum for us (when we kill that many power plays) and you know you're going to get some calls back," Daniel Sedin said. "We certainly did."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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