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The Penalty Kill Was A Difference Maker

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
Thanks in large part to their penalty killing, with Antti Niemi as the final stopper, San Jose was able to keep Vancouver at bay and cut the series to 2-1.

“Our intensity was much improved from where it was in Vancouver,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said in the postgame press conference. “I thought we played harder, we won more battles. We were much better in a lot of areas. Our penalty kill for one, we gave up two goals, but it came through when it needed to on the 5-on-3.”

With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, and looking at a 3-0 hole, Vancouver got the chance they needed to possibly climb back into the game and that’s when the penalty killers stood tall.

Andrew Desjardins, in his postseason debut, got tagged with a holding the stick penalty on one of the Sedin twins. A mere 34 seconds later, Captain Joe Thornton got tacked with the same penalty. All of a sudden, Team Teal found themselves down two men for 1:26.

The Sharks penalty killers held the deadly Canucks power play to just three shots on goal, which Antti Niemi cleanly stopped. Niemi finished the game 27 for 30 on saves.

However, upon Desjardins exiting the penalty box after his teammates killed off the 5-on-3, he tripped up Ryan Kesler and immediately returned to the box.

Vancouver would get another crack on Niemi on a 5-on-3, this time for roughly 30 additional seconds. But the relentless Sharks penalty kill and Niemi’s back-to-back saves kept the Canucks scoreless to that point.

Vancouver did rally late due to a five minute major, but it was the work done on the successive two-man disadvantages that carried the day. Ideally the crew isn’t called on as much the next game.

“We talked about not taking too many penalties against a team like that. It’s not a matter of how many good penalty killers you have, they’ll expose you eventually,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “We’re not going to win any games by sitting in the box six to eight minutes a game.”

A five-minute boarding major and a 10-minute game misconduct on Jamie McGinn led to two power play goals and brought the game to within 4-3 for Vancouver with less than five minutes in the game. That would be as close as the Canucks got.

San Jose owned a spotless penalty kill record on the night prior to the McGinn major. The Sharks ended the game going 5-for-7 on the PK.

“I thought we played solid,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “We blocked shots, played strong in front of the net. We did a fairly good job (on the five minute PK) except for that one missed assignment; the other (goal) went off a skate. They have a good power play but I thought we finished the game strong.”

Alternate Captain Ryane Clowe said that he doesn’t expect this parade to the penalty box to continue as the series goes on. Vancouver and San Jose combined for a total of 55 penalty minutes tonight.

“Special teams were taking over 5-on-5,” Clowe said. “There was no opportunity for anyone to gain momentum. Both power plays have done damage. I think you’re going to see penalty go down a bit more as we go on.”

The forwards and defensemen did their job out there shorthanded, but Niemi was the final piece to the puzzle in the crease.

“Especially on the 5-on-3, he made some huge, huge saves. He was awesome tonight," Boyle said.  "That five-on-three, the guys that were out there did an amazing job. Looking back, that was a huge kill. Five-on-three, teams are going to get a lot of chances. Dougie was putting his body in front of every puck there. It took a lot of sacrifice form the boys and it was a huge kill.”

The Sharks might have gotten under the Canucks skin early in the game when a barrage of Vancouver players were making their way to the penalty box -- the Canucks provided four consecutive power plays to start the game.

San Jose continued where they left off on the man-advantage and scored their first two goals on the power play to jump ahead 2-0 halfway through the first period. The Sharks were a perfect 5-for-5 on the power play in the series at this point in the game.

“We realized how important tonight was and the next game it’s going to be more important. Every game for us is Game 7 and we realized what’s at stake,” Captain Joe Thornton said. “The guys showed up. The fans were into it and gave us an extra boost.”

The Sharks sprung way ahead on the shot clock also. They led 15-1 in the first 15 minutes of the game due in large part to the man advantage.

“The power play was very sharp,” McLellan said. “It got us the lead. Probably won us the game.”

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