All drivers, no passengers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Todd McLellan had urged for more of his playmakers to be difference makers and Ryane Clowe
did that in scoring in the big first period for San Jose.
Clowe parked himself in front of Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo as the Sharks were pressing a four-minute power play awarded after a high stick by Vancouver blueliner Christian Ehrhoff drew blood. 1:28 into the man-advantage, Clowe found the puck on his stick after a pass from Dan Boyle
from behind the goal line, and he used his size and superior strength to jam the puck home through Luongo despite having his feet yanked from under him in the crease.
"That's where I need to score this time of the year, right around the top of the crease," said Clowe.
After losing all their composure in the 7-3 defeat Wednesday, the Sharks turned the tables on Vancouver Friday, drawing 11 penalties on the Canucks. Only two of the penalties came in the first period, but the Sharks converted both, with Clowe's goal boosting the team to a 2-0 lead.
A quick glance at the scoresheet doesn't really tell the story. Clowe had two shots, one goal, two hits and one block in 17:30 of ice time, but the Sharks were able to win the game primarily because of the time they spent on the man-advantage, and Clowe was in the middle of that.
The Sharks had 10 power plays in the game (Vancouver's 11th penalty was a slash by Ryan Kesler at the final horn) leading to 15:51 of power-play time. Clowe was on the ice for nearly half of that, 7:10 overall.
"Obviously, it felt like the best game for me in this series," said the alternate captain. "I had the puck more, I had more opportunities to make plays. I skated better, and I scored a goal on the power play in front of the net. I had some good opportunities. It was a funny game, because it felt like I had the puck a lot, but a lot of it was power plays. There were so many power plays, it seemed like the special teams were taking over. There was no opportunity for anyone to gain any momentum 5-on-5.
"I obviously felt better. I felt our line was better tonight, and I still think we've got room to build."
After watching his teammates take a slew of penalties in the third period of game two, Clowe was pleased with the poise they showed while fending off the onslaught of a five-minute power play in the game's final eight minutes. The Canucks scored twice on that power play, the second goal coming on an unfortunate deflection off Ian White's skate, but they showed grit and determination as a team by putting their bodies in front of the net and maintaining themselves within their system, even as the Canucks pulled Luongo for much of the final two minutes of play.
"I liked our poise -- I don't think we were nervous at the end, we just blocked a lot," Clowe said. "I'd like to see how many shots we blocked tonight, I think it was a lot. (It was 26, a high number considering Vancouver only got 30 through to Niemi, who saved 27). That's good."
"I think, obviously, our urgency was there. I'd like to see us - if you're ahead or tied, whatever, I'd like to see us have that all the time at this time of year. Obviously, we're still behind in the series. They still hold the lead. We've had that urgency and desperation - we had it tonight -- if we had the puck, they were not getting it from us. We had that mentality, and it drew a lot of penalties, and our power play was good."
There is more of that game to come from Clowe and the Sharks.
"It was just composure on our part. A little more ‘suck it up’ kind of mentality (Friday night), I guess,” Clowe said. “You respect their power play, and I'm sure they look at our power play and they don't want to give us any more opportunities. Both power plays have done damage. I think you are going to see the penalties go down and a bit more 5-on-5 play as we go along here."
Clowe found a way to make his presence felt, physically and on the scoreboard, Friday night, that left Vancouver with much more pain than the hits and physical penalties from game two.