San Jose looked to take their last attempt at the Pacific Division title, but it would take a victory over Vancouver and some help from the Columbus Blue Jackets later in the evening against Anaheim.
San Jose surrendered the opening goal just two minutes into the contest. Kevin Bieksa beat the defense to a loose puck and put a close shot on Nabokov from a difficult angle. The stop was made, but the rebound squirted beyond some Sharks defenders and directly to Matt Cooke. That shot appeared to bounce off Patrick Marleau
and past Nabokov.
Two minutes later, the Canucks lead was 2-0. This time a simple point shot by Sami Salo was tipped out front by Taylor Pyatt and the puck slid inside the far post.
After killing off a Vancouver penalty, San Jose began asserting themselves offensively and forced Brent Sopel into a slashing penalty. The Canucks penalty killers were up to the task as well and the score did not change.
The Canucks were taking every liberty with Joe Thornton
in the game’s opening 15 minutes and then the Sharks reached their boiling point. When Thornton was knocked down away from the play, all 10 skaters on the ice quickly paired. Few real punches were landed, with the best coming when Craig Rivet landed an upper cut on Rory Fitzpatrick.
Trevor Linden tripped up Cheechoo with 1:08 left in the first, but the power play would have to continue in the second as Vancouver took their 2-0 lead to the break.
With just five seconds left in the Sharks second period power play, Team Teal lit the lamp. A Thornton delivery to Milan Michalek, who was parked in front creating havoc, bounced off the winger’s leg, closing the gap to 2-1.
The physical play was still in full force for both clubs early in the second, but Markus Naslund went a bit too far when he tripped up Joe Pavelski
and the Sharks went hunting for their second power play tally of the stanza. When Cheechoo entered the zone on the rush, Brendan Morrison hooked him down, giving the home club 25 seconds of five-on-three time.
Despite multiple efforts by the Sharks power play units, Vancouver stopped both advantages, and San Jose avoided giving up a shortie when Nabokov made the big save on a Canucks odd-man rush.
Vancouver forced themselves into a second five-on-three deficit when Jan Bulis hooked down Marc-Edouard in the slot on the power – and this time the Sharks converted. Ron Wilson took the opportunity to use his timeout and draw up the tying tally. It finally came when Marleau’s shot whistled by the net and came out the other side right to Thornton. The Seagate Technology Sharks Player of the Year calmly settled down the puck and pushed it over the goal line.
Just as in the Anaheim contest two nights ago, the Sharks rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the contest. Whether San Jose would be alive in the Pacific Division race would be decided in the third period.
The third began with four-on-four play as Steve Bernier and Mattias Ohlund were sent to the box for roughing as the second period concluded. The Vancouver went on the advantage with Cheechoo was sent to the box. However, the only highlight came when Kyle McLaren crushed Bieksa into the boards behind Nabokov.
When Curtis Brown was sent to the box with 14 left in the third, it provided Vancouver with their third tally. A point shot by Bieksa through a screen found it’s way to the back of the net and the Sharks would have to rally for a late goal.
As the third reached it’s midway point, a Bernier shot rang off a defender’s leg to a wide open Clowe. Parked at the sided of the net, the winger from Newfoundland smacked the puck for what appeared to be the tying goal – instead, it was a highlight save by Luongo.
The comeback became a bit more difficult when Thornton was called for boarding with 5:06 left. The PK groups, specifically Grier, Brown, Goc and Rissmiller did their jobs and the Sharks still had a chance.
With 33 second left in regulation, Cheechoo tied the game on a brilliant feed from Thornton. The goal extended the game into overtime, giving the Sharks an opportunity to grab the extra point and the temporary lead in the Pacific Division race.
But Vancouver killed San Jose's comeback chances just 34 seconds into overtime. Mattias Ohlund's blast from the point clipped a stick at the point and fluttered over Nabokov's shoulder. The goal clinched the game and the Northwest Division title for the Vancouver Canucks.