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Sharks Beat Canucks to take 1-0 Series Lead

by Jonathan Okanes / San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks took Vancouver’s best shots Wednesday night. They responded by putting some of their own shots in the back of the Canucks net.

San Jose has already stolen away home-ice advantage in its Western Conference quarterfinal series against Vancouver with a 3-1 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven showdown at Rogers Arena. The Sharks scored three unanswered goals after falling behind 1-0 in the second period to gain the upper hand after the first game of the series.

Logan Couture, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks, who withstood an onslaught of crunching hits by the Canucks. Couture’s goal came on the power play.

San Jose essentially won two of the three periods. Even though the first period ended in a scoreless tie, the Sharks dominated play, outshooting the Canucks 15-9 and netting two power play opportunities while not committing any penalties themselves. San Jose went on the man-advantage less than three minutes into the game and peppered Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo with seven shots.

The Canucks were the aggressors for most of the second period. They had their first power play at 1:50 after a boarding penalty assessed to Andrew Desjardins, but couldn’t generate any quality scoring chances. A delay of game call against Matt Irwin put Vancouver on the man-advantage once again, and this time Ryan Kesler unleashed a strong shot that was saved without a rebound by San Jose goalie Antti Niemi. Shortly after the teams returned to full strength, the Canucks had a couple of strong chances in front of the San Jose net, a flurry that produced a shot that hit the crossbar.

Vancouver finally got on the scoresheet first at 12:26 of the second when defenseman Kevin Bieksa scored after a major scrum in front of the goal. The Canucks kept swiping at the puck until it squirted past Couture, who was set up behind Niemi in front of the goal.

But it took only a little over four minutes for San Jose to come up with the answer. Vancouver’s Zack Kassian was sent off for roughing at 16:00, and just 35 seconds later Couture registered the equalizer. Couture, who also drew the penalty on Kassian, was set up by Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton for the goal.

Boyle gave the Sharks the lead at 9:17, getting help by good work of Desjardins and Tommy Wingels. Wingels was especially physical in front of the net and after both he and Desjardins took turns swiping at the puck, it squirted behind them to Boyle who had a wide-open net and scored.

Couture, who was one of the best players on the ice the entire evening, was in the middle of the Sharks third goal as well. After some hard skating by Raffi Torres helped put San Jose in position to score, Couture found Marleau from behind the goal. Marleau’s shot deflected off Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis and past Luongo for a 3-1 advantage.

The Sharks are now 4-0 against the Canucks this season after winning all three matchups between the teams during the regular season. Wednesday marked the first time they faced Luongo as all three games during the regular season came against usual starter Cory Schneider, who missed the playoff opener with an undisclosed injury.

STAR OF THE GAME: Logan Couture. The center was a presence throughout the evening. He got the Sharks on the board with a power play goal in the second period, and then set up Patrick Marleau’s goal in the third with a feed from behind the Vancouver net.

GAME DATA: The Canucks outhit the Sharks, 40-26. Although San Jose played physically as well, it received more hard hits than it dished out. Still, San Jose stayed composed and outlasted Vancouver. … The Sharks won the faceoff battle, 40-30, giving them consistent possession throughout the evening. …Niemi made 28 saves and sent a message that his strong regular season would continue into the playoffs.

INJURY REPORT: RW Marty Havlat left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return. He was replaced by Torres on the Couture line. … Vancouver starting goalie Cory Schneider missed the game with an undisclosed injury, one that kept him out of the Canucks’ final two regular season games.

TEAM STATS: Shots: VAN 30, SJ 28. Hits: VAN 40, SJ 26. FACEOFFS WON: VAN 40, SJ 30.

NEXT UP: The Sharks and Canucks meet in Game 2 on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Rogers Arena. One of the big questions will be whether Schneider will be back minding the Vancouver net. That being said, Luongo acquitted himself nicely in Game 1, making 25 saves and turning back a flurry of San Jose shots in the first period. Also, will Havlat be back for the Sharks? If not, will coach Todd McLellan stick with his Game 1 adjustment of moving Torres to the Couture line, or will he continue to tinker with his lineup. Recap by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER – Dan Boyle jumped in from the point and helped the San Jose Sharks jump out to an early lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Boyle scored the go-ahead goal 9:17 into the third period and Patrick Marleau added an insurance goal with 5:23 left to lift the Sharks to 3-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Boyle was left with a wide-open net after Roberto Luongo couldn't cover a jam play on his blocker side, setting off a scramble with four Canucks gathered around their own net. None picked up Boyle pinching in from the opposite point, and the puck squirted loose to him for an easy tap-in on the other side.

Logan Couture tied the game late in the second period and set up Marleau's goal with a nice pass from behind the net. Antti Niemi finished with 29 saves for the Sharks, beaten only by teammate Raffi Torres during a scramble in his crease.

Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa was credited with that opening goal on a wild flurry with 7:34 left in the second period. It seemed to spark a brief surge that included a sharp-angle Daniel Sedin shot off the cross bar. But Couture tied it on a power play four minutes later, and Vancouver got seven shots in the third period.

The Canucks, who have now lost five straight playoff games at home dating back to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, host Game 2 on Friday at Rogers Arena before the best-of-7 series shifts to San Jose for Games 3 and 4.

Luongo, who made the start because No.1 Cory Schneider wasn't quite ready to come back from an unidentified “body” injury that kept him out the final two regular-season games, finished with 25 saves. He didn't have much of a chance on the first two goals, but gave the puck away to start the sequence that led to the third, which ended with Marleau alone in front for a quick, low shot.

Luongo was at his best during an early San Jose power play that produced seven shots and a handful of point-blank scoring chances. He threw out the left pad to deny Marleau on a one-timer from the low slot, then stretched across with the right leg to rob Martin Havlat of an empty-net chance on a long rebound.

Havlat, playing on a second line with Couture and Patrick Marleau, left with nine minutes left in the period due to an undisclosed injury and didn't return, forcing the Sharks to juggle lines.

Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler came close to opening the scoring after a power play midway through the second period, but Niemi got a piece of his wrist shot from the high slot and the puck bounced high in the air, landing just past the cross bar on top of the net before bouncing over.

Jannik Hansen was originally credited for the opening goal after a wild scramble that started with his blind backhand drop pass to Bieksa for a one-timer. Niemi stopped that, and robbed Mason Raymond with his right pad on the rebound in tight, but it set off a wild scramble that ended with former Canucks forward Torres sliding the puck back to – and under – his own goaltender.

It was Vancouver's first lead against San Jose this season after dropping all three meetings in the regular season, but it didn't last long.

Couture tied it on a power play with 3:25 left in the period after taking a punch that earned Zack Kassian a roughing penalty. The Sharks, who pelted Luongo with seven shots on their first advantage, wasted little time converting their third power play, moving it around easily until finding Couture alone atop the left faceoff circle for a wrist shot past the blocker of a screened Luongo.

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