Cullen: Canucks win special teams battle; lead series 3-1

Scott Cullen
5/22/2011 8:48:43 PM
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A game that appeared to be set for the San Jose Sharks to seize with five consecutive power play chances turned dramatically the other way and the Vancouver Canucks took a 3-1 series lead.

Vancouver killed off all five Sharks power plays through the 4:06 mark of the second period, and then the tide turned starting at 8:15, when the Sharks were whistled for the first of four penalties that came in a span of 2:46. The bunching of the penalties meant that the Canucks were afforded five-on-three advantages and did they ever make the most of the situation.

11 seconds after Torrey Mitchell took a hooking penalty to give the Canucks their first 5-on-3, Ryan Kesler ripped a one-time slapshot over Antti Niemi's shoulder to give the Canucks the lead.

16 seconds after the Sharks were called for too many men, Sami Salo unleashed a one-timer that beat Niemi under his blocker arm.

10 seconds after Douglas Murray was called for shooting the puck over the glass, Salo let another one-time blast go from the point and, with a deflection, found its way through Niemi and suddenly the Canucks were up 3-0.

Vancouver's incredible efficiency in five-on-three situations helped perpetuate the five-on-three power play situation because they scored so quickly that the Sharks never had a chance to kill off the even one of the penalties that would then allow them to get back to even when they surrendered a power play goal.

It all just happened so fast and, from that point on, San Jose was left trying to play catch-up.

Vancouver's power play is 8-for-19 (42.1%) in the last three games.

Salo, playing a bigger role (23:33) with Christian Ehrhoff out of the lineup, responded with those two power play goals and blocked five shots -- tied with Dan Hamhuis for the game-high.

Henrik Sedin was, not surprisingly, the setup man for the Canucks, registering four assists, including a nifty feed that went through Antti Niemi's legs to an open Alex Burrows for Vancouver's fourth goal.

Sedin didn't have any four assist games this season and did it once in three previous seasons (between 2007 and 2010). He's now the leading scorer in the postseason, with 19 points in 17 playoff games.

Down 3-0 after two, the Sharks outshot the Canucks 17-3 in the third period, finishing with a 35-13 advantage in shots in goal. It was the first time since October,  2008 that the Canucks had so few shots on goal in a game and the only time this season that the Canucks were outshot by at least 20 shots on goal was March 10, a shootout win at San Jose.

Roberto Luongo was a stabilizing presence in the Canucks goal, stopping 33 of 35 shots, his most saves in a win in this year's playoffs.

Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle had nine shots on goal, his most in a game since March, 2009.

Not only are the Sharks now facing elimination, needing three straight wins to advance, they are also facing the prospect of not having Joe Thornton available for Game Five. Thornton's status is up in the air after he appeared to suffer an upper-body injury following a third period hit from Canucks winger Raffi Torres.

Vancouver returns home with a trip to the Cup Final on the line, needing one win in the next three games to make it happen.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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