Had it been a different teammate, maybe Brent Burns would have had to slow down a little more to get the 2-on-1 going in overtime Friday night. But he likely didn’t have to wait quite as long for Raffi Torres to join him on the game-winning odd-man rush.
One of the reasons the Sharks acquired Torres at the trade deadline was to give them an infusion of speed. Torres indeed caught up to Burns and capitalized on his perfect pass to notch the decider in a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The win gave San Jose two road wins to start the Western Conference Quarterfinal Series. Game 3 is Sunday night at HP Pavilion.
“He’s had a huge impact on our team,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “One of the goals that we had, even at the beginning of the season but more so at the trade deadline, was to make our team faster and maybe a little harder to play against. Raffi brings both of those elements. He’s very capable on the power play and plays the game very hard.”
Torres became the hero Friday night after the Sharks forced overtime on a goal by Patrick Marleau with 55.1 seconds remaining and an extra attacker on the ice as goalie Antti Niemi went to the bench. After Burns almost won it earlier in overtime when a funky bounce in front of the Vancouver goal allowed him to take a high-percentage shot that was saved by Roberto Luongo, he blocked a shot and retained possession. Burns raced down the ice, waited briefly for Torres to join him, then shoveled a perfect pass to him for the winning score.
Torres easily flicked the puck up high and past Luongo to set off the Sharks celebration.
“You just have to have your stick on the ice and head down and just be ready for anything,” Torres said. “(Burns) made a great play. To be honest with you, I didn’t see it go in. I just made sure my stick was on the ice and got some god wood on it, and it worked out well.”
Torres’ game-winner made up for a missed opportunity in the second period when his one-timer from close-range into an open part of the net seemed destined to push the Sharks’ advantage to 2-0. But Luongo made a terrific lunging glove save to keep the Canucks’ deficit at one goal.
“I just look at it as a good scoring opportunity,” Torres said. “That’s what you need. They are not all going to go in. (Luongo) had a great game tonight. He made some big saves. It feels great to get the winner, but you have to know he’ll bounce back. Fortunately, we came out on top.”
Torres’ heroics came shortly after McLellan called timeout after an icing call brought the puck back into the Sharks’ defensive zone. Vancouver had been applying pressure, and the timeout seemed to settle San Jose down.
“A lot of times, coaches will save their timeouts to pull their goalie or for late in the game,” McLellan said. “That doesn’t matter in overtime. A goal is going to be scored. You don’t get that chance to pull the goalie. So we used it and took our chances.”