(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks will try to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 17 years when they host the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference final tonight.
With a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series the Canucks need one more victory to qualify for the Cup Final for the first time since 1994, when they lost in seven games to the New York Rangers.
However, the top-seeded Canucks have struggled this postseason when they have a chance to end a series, posting a 2-4 record in elimination games. Vancouver held a three-games-to-none lead over Chicago in the opening round, but lost three in a row before winning the series in Game 7. The Canucks then held a 3-1 lead over Nashville in Round 2 and ended that series in six games.
"We're excited obviously. But the series is far from over," said Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We know that as we've seen in the first two series, the last one is always the toughest one to win."
Vancouver won the first two tests of this series on home ice and split Games 3 and 4 in San Jose. The Canucks are 6-3 as the host in the playoffs after going 27-9-5 at Rogers Arena during the regular season.
San Jose, which will host Game 6 on Thursday if they can stave off elimination tonight, is 4-4 as the guest in these playoffs and had a 23-14-4 road record this season.
The second-seeded Sharks won their only game in this series in Friday's Game 3 at HP Pavilion, but Vancouver rebounded with Sunday's 4-2 triumph in San Jose. The Canucks scored three times on 5-on-3 advantages in a span of under two minutes in the second period to take control of Game 4 and set up tonight's elimination game.
"In two and a half minutes, we kept marching to the box, they kept scoring," said San Jose head coach Todd McLellan.
Sami Salo tallied two power-play goals and assisted on another for the Canucks, who were 3-for-5 on the man advantage. San Jose failed to convert on all five of its power-play opportunities.
"Well, obviously in any hockey game you prepare your power play and your penalty killing," said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault. "We killed the penalties that we had to kill at the beginning. I thought that gave us a little bit of momentum and confidence."
Henrik Sedin posted four assists, his brother Daniel added three helpers while Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows each had a goal to help Vancouver bounce back from a 4-3 loss on Friday. Luongo stopped 33-of-35 shots in the Game 4 triumph.
Andrew Desjardins and Ryane Clowe each scored a goal while Antti Niemi was tagged for all four goals on 13 shots for the Sharks, who fell to 3-11 all- time in conference final games.
The Canucks won despite playing without defensemen Aaron Rome and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who missed Sunday's test after both players were injured in Game 3 on hits by San Jose forward Jamie McGinn. Rome suffered a head injury on a play that resulted in a major boarding penalty and a game misconduct for McGinn. Ehrhoff was knocked out earlier in Friday's contest on a clean check by McGinn.
Both players are questionable for this evening's tilt.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton suffered an upper body injury in Game 4 after a collision with Vancouver's Raffi Torres. Thornton missed an optional practice on Monday, but he will play tonight.
Also, Sharks defenseman Jason Demers is questionable again after sitting out all four games of this series with an undisclosed injury. Veteran blueliner Kent Huskins has skated in Demers' place and he may be needed again today.
The Sharks are in the conference finals for a third time in club history after ousting Detroit in seven games in the last round.
Vancouver beat Nashville in six games to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1994, when they beat Toronto for the Western Conference title before losing to the Rangers.