Canucks down Sharks in comeback win, take early series lead

Henrik Sedin proved that he just might have it in him after all.

The Vancouver captain scored the game-winning goal as the Vancouver Canucks made a third-period comeback to beat the San Jose Sharks 3–2 in the Western Conference Final series opener, showing his critics he can get the job done, regular season or not.

Although it seems he’s nursing an injury, Henrik has come under fire for his lax performance this postseason, as has is teammate and identical twin brother Daniel.

The Sedin twins may have averaged 2.41 goals per game combined coming into the playoffs, but their 1.46 average in the first two rounds hasn’t won them any fans.

It was Ryan Kesler, who was getting the job done for the Canucks last round. The centre was in on 11 of Vancouver’s 14 goals against the Predators, scoring five of them and assisting on six.

San Jose too, has had its offensive roadblocks. The club’s underperforming forwards are the deepest left in the playoffs, but have failed to post numbers worthy of a second glance, either.

The no. 1 seed in the West coming in, the Canucks have only scored 30 goals in their 13 games. The Sharks, who were right behind them at no. 2, have played the same number, producing 38.

It may be the first-ever playoff meeting between the two clubs, but neither has ever brought home the coveted Stanley Cup, meaning the pressure is on.

After giving up a 3–0 series lead to the defending Chicago Blackhawks in round one, the Canucks narrowly made the cut with a 2–1 overtime win in Game 7. The Sharks flip-flopped with the Los Angeles Kings over six games before knocking them out of contention.

In round two, Vancouver played six games with the Nashville Predators before securing a spot in the Western Conference final. It was San Jose that played a seven-game series, hanging on to beat Detroit 3–2 in a third-period showdown.

Patrick Marleau, who failed to score in the first six games of the series, saved face scoring the game-winner at 12:13, showing critical commentator former teammate Joe Roenick that he’s anything but “gutless.”

Antti Niemi made 38 saves for the Sharks, becoming the first goalie in the post-expansion NHL era to make it to the Conference finals in back-to-back years with different teams after winning the cup with Blackhawks last year. The 27-year-old star is the youngest goalie left in the playoffs.

But despite the likes of Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray, San Jose lacks shutdown defenders, a point proven by Vancouver’s come-from-behind victory at home.

Thornton opened the scoring with a wrist shot at 18:47, his third goal of the playoffs, giving the Sharks the lead going into first intermission.

It didn’t take long for the Canucks to bounce back. A little over a minute into the second period, third-liner Maxim Lapierre got them on the board with his first goal of the playoffs, assisted by Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres.

At 8:44, Marleau shot into action on the powerplay, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs putting the San Jose back on top with a 2–1 lead.

The Canucks tried desperately to tie the game up before the second intermission, but despite flattening Niemi scrambling in front of the net with just over two minutes to go before the buzzer, failed to get the goal they needed.

As the clock ticked down the minutes in the third period, the Canucks navigated their way around the ice, pressuring the Sharks as they looked for an opening.

It was off a pass from Alexandre Burrows about seven minutes in that Kevin Bieksa found it and tied the game 2–2, putting the Canucks in a position to take the lead.

With Dany Heatley in the penalty box for elbowing, Henrik Sedin made his move. He sent the puck into the net with a backhander at 8:21, assisted by Kesler, and Christian Erhoff, winning the game 3–2 for his team.