After the Vancouver Canucks watched the San Jose Sharks implode and lose their cool in Game Two, the Canucks showed a serious lack of discipline in Game Three, giving San Jose nine power plays.
This penalty parade, while not typical of the Canucks' play, wasn't exactly unprecedented either. The Canucks did give up seven or more power plays five times during the regular season (four times in the last month) as well as twice more in the first round against Chicago.
The Sharks only converted two of nine power plays, but the conversions came early, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead before the midway point of the first period, building momentum and keeping the crowd in the game.
Early power plays certainly helped, but the Sharks dominated territorial play, holding a 3-0 lead after one period and owning a 26-10 lead in shots on goal with 12 minutes left in the second period.
While Vancouver showed more life after the midway point of the second, the game didn't really get interesting (ie. competitive) until Sharks winger Jamie McGinn took a five-minute boarding penalty for drilling Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome with 8:38 remaining.
McGinn, in the lineup for healthy scratch Ben Eager, did wreak a certain amount of havoc in his 5:32 of ice time, knocking Canucks defencemen Rome and Christian Ehrhoff (who only played 3:35 before getting hurt) out of the game.
Remember, McGinn, who isn't known as a notorious bruiser, also took a major penalty and game misconduct in the deciding game of the first round, Game Six against Los Angeles, when he was called for charging Kings forward Brad Richardson.
The Canucks trailed 4-1, but started to mount some pressure once McGinn's major penalty was on the board, getting goals from defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa to cut the San Jose lead to one, but Vancouver couldn't get the equalizer.
Vancouver's power play, which ended up two-for-five in the game, came away empty late in the second period when they had a pair of lengthy five-on-three advantages and, at that point, it didn't look like the Canucks would get back into the game.
In a game that was practically must-win for the Sharks, their big guns came out firing. Patrick Marleau led the way with two goals and an assist (along with a team-high seven shots on goal), Joe Thornton had three assists (and played more than 25 minutes) and defenceman Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist as well.
Marleau now has five goals in the last four games, while Thornton takes over the playoff scoring lead with 17 points.
On home ice, the Sharks tried to get Thornton, Marleau and Devin Setoguchi out aginst the Sedins and Alex Burrows as much as possible. Burrows had a strong game for Vancouver, registering seven shots on goal and playing 22:12, his most in a regulation playoff game this season.
Sharks centre Logan Couture missed some time in the middle of the game when he had to get checked out after he was inadvertently hit by forechecking teammate Ryane Clowe, but Couture did return to action.
Ehrhoff's absence could prove to be very significant for Vancouver as, going into Game Three, he was one of four Canucks defencemen to average more than 23 minutes per game in the playoffs and his seven power play points in the playoffs led all Canucks blueliners by five. If Ehrhoff is going to miss any additional game action, Sami Salo would figure to take the bulk of the minutes.
Salo played 24:30 in Game Three, a little more than five minutes above his previous high for ice time in a game this postseason.
It may have looked like Vancouver was on easy street after their blowout win in Game Two of the series, but after losing Game Three they now have a critical Game Four coming up Sunday afternoon.
A disciplined Canucks team could leave San Jose with a split and a commanding 3-1 series lead, but another scrambly effort like the one that Vancouver delivered in Game Three could very well have the series even going back to Vancouver.