The job ahead could not be simpler.
All the Mulligans have been used. There's no margin for error. The Sharks must play like there’s no tomorrow, in order for there to be a chance for a tomorrow.
Twenty-four National Hockey League teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win an NHL postseason series, including four teams in the past three seasons. Most recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from this deficit to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
The San Jose Sharks are now set to the task of becoming the 25th. Just to make the stew a little spicier, they must win two of those games in Vancouver, and they have to sweep the next three from the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks.
Nobody on the Sharks would begin to suggest that it will be easy, but nobody was willing to concede the series to Vancouver and make golf reservations, either. Remember, it was just a couple of weeks ago that the Sharks were, themselves, in the position Vancouver is now – up 3-1, coming home for Game 5 against the Red Wings, and that series went down to the final minute of Game 7.
Game 4 turned on something no one could ever remember seeing before – three 5-on-3 power plays in a row over a two-minute span. Vancouver scored on each of them and that was enough cushion to hold on for a 4-2 win.
Nobody expects that, or anything like it, to happen again. After suffering that shock in the second period, the Sharks came out and played a very good third period, holding the Canucks to just three shots on goal while scoring twice themselves and establishing in their own minds that they can carry that momentum up to Canada.
|San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) works against Vancouver Canucks defensemen Kevin Bieksa (3) and Dan Hamhuis (2) as goalie Roberto Luongo watches during the third period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 22, 2011. Vancouver won 4-2. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) |
“I think we came out better in the third,” Patrick Marleau
said. “Obviously, they tightened things up defensively and played well that way. We need more, we need to do better. We've got another chance to go in there and win the game.
“We've got to play to play another game,: Marleau added. "Our focus will be on winning one game at a time and going from there.”Joe Pavelski
, who provided so many heroics in last year’s playoff run, spoke of keeping the team’s eyes on the prize, ”It's going to take a lot of intensity. We are going to have to be focused," Pavelski said. "We're going to have to do a lot of good things just to get one win. All of the little things have to add up at the end of the night.
“You have to perform, or you're going home," Pavelski added. "You have to have guys that can step up in those situations. We know we can do it. We have to find ways to do it the whole time now.”Ryane Clowe
provided a more sober assessment of the situation, but one that was spot-on nonetheless: “Desperation, right now. If we don't win, we go home," he said. "We haven't been in this situation in the playoffs this year. We've been in control of a series. It's a test. (We’ve) just got to win the next game. Obviously, the hope for all of us is to come back to San Jose. We had some chances tonight, we scored a couple of goals, we were pretty good 5-on-5. We just can't give them the other opportunities.”
|San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) collides with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) during the first period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) |
also keyed in on the third period performance. “I thought our third period was better,” he said, “which is good going forward. Hopefully, we can build off that. I know, momentum creates itself each and every game, so we are going to have to go into Vancouver and create some momentum from the puck drop and win the game.”
Veteran (and Stanley Cup winner in 2004 with Tampa Bay) Dan Boyle
gave some perspective to the situation. He was almost apologetic when he said, “It's the old cliché -- you take it one shift at a time. You can't start thinking about the second period or the sixth game. It's just a cliché, but you just go out there and you win your shift, every time you're on the ice. That's it. You've just got to take everything one thing at a time and win what's in front of you.”
It might be a cliché, but it’s absolutely true.Douglas Murray
clearly wants to see the team show more early jump Tuesday in Game 5 at Rogers Arena. “We have to process this game,” he said, “get over it tonight and give a better effort a couple of days from now. This team is totally capable of winning three straight games, but right now, we have to win the first one. We have to be sharper on our execution, and definitely take less penalties. It's something we addressed before the game and we did it to ourselves again. Get out there and compete.
“You've got to be aggressive," he added. "I don't know if we were aggressive enough early tonight. I can't put a finger on it, but that's the way it felt.”
“We know we've got a tough task ahead of us," Coach Todd McLellan said. "Vancouver knows, we know, Detroit knows, Chicago knows that anything can happen.”