Canucks beat Sharks, advance to Stanley Cup final

The Canadian Press

5/25/2011 3:15:32 AM

VANCOUVER -- Kevin Bieksa scored 10:18 into the second overtime as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 Tuesday night to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 17 years.

The game was won on a strange play. The puck took a funny bounce off the back boards, and several of the Sharks were standing looking around when Bieksa fired a knuckler of shot that fooled everyone, including San Jose goalie Antti Niemi.

"I shot it. I think when the puck went in the goalie was looking behind the net," Bieksa said. "It was an ugly goal, but one I will take."

Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo raised his stick in celebration as the rest of the team poured on the ice. Confetti fell from the roof as the sellout crowd of 18,860 chanted "we want the Cup."

"The only guy who knew where that puck was, was Kevin Bieksa and he almost fanned on it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It's one of those things you have no control over. We can talk about it all we want. There is nothing we can do about it."

The Canucks won the best-of-seven series 4-1.

"It's fantastic. It's unbelievable," Bieksa said. "To go to the Stanley Cup final is a dream come true."

Ryan Kesler scored with 13.2 seconds left in the third period to force the overtime. The gritty centre tipped a shot by Henrik Sedin past Niemi.

The Sharks outshot the Canucks 16-9 in the first overtime. Luongo kept Vancouver in the game by making a glove save of a Kyle Wellwood shot and blocking a deflection off the skate of Ian White.

Vancouver was outshot 56-34.

"I thought (Luongo) was real good," Canucks coach Alain Vigneaut said. "Tonight, without a doubt, (the Sharks) played a real strong game, probably their best game of these playoffs. We had a couple of breakdowns that he was able to keep us in the game."

The game was played exactly 17 years after Greg Adams scored in double overtime to give Vancouver a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1994 Western Conference final. The Canucks would lose the Stanley Cup final in seven games to the New York Rangers

The Canucks will now wait for the winner of the Eastern Conference final between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins lead that series 3-2 with Game 5 Wednesday night.

Devin Setoguchi gave San Jose a 2-1 lead with just 24 seconds gone in the third. A bouncing puck at the blue-line got past Canuck defenceman Alex Edler, giving Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski a two-man breakaway on Luongo.

Luongo rushed out of his net to try and get to the loose puck. Pavelski slid the puck under a diving Luongo to Setoguchi, who had an open net to shoot into.

Alex Burrows had the other goal for the Canucks, while Henrik Sedin had two assists.

Patrick Marleau, on the power play, also scored for the Sharks.

San Jose outshot the Canucks 25-12 after 40 minutes, but Luongo made some big saves.

In the first period Luongo stopped Sharks' captain Joe Thornton three times, once during a five-on-three San Jose power play. Thornton, playing with a suspected shoulder injury, also had a shot bank off the post behind Luongo and slide across the goal-line.

Marleau tied the game at 9:57 of the second with Bieksa off for high-sticking. Dan Boyle took a shot from the point that changed direction when it hit the glove of Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard, then Marleau tipped it past Luongo for his eighth goal of the playoffs.

San Jose outshot Vancouver 15-6 in the opening period but still trailed 1-0.

Burrows scored his seventh goal of the playoffs at 8:02. He got the puck from a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play between Daniel and Henrik Sedin, then beat Niemi on the glove side.

The Sharks swarmed the Canuck net during a 1:24 two-man advantage, but Luongo stopped everything that was thrown at him. Thornton looked to have an open net at one point, but the big Canuck goaltender managed to stack his pads.

There were some anxious moments for Canuck fans in the second period when Kesler limped off the ice favouring his left leg and went to the dressing room. Kesler returned later in the period.

The win was a relief for the Canucks, who have struggled to finish off other series.

Vancouver is 3-4 in playoff elimination games this spring and 1-2 in Game 5s.

Vancouver took a 3-0 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of the playoffs, then needed a goal in overtime of Game 7 to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Canucks were forced to make an extra trip to Nashville in the second round when they lost Game 5 of that series 4-2. They defeated the Predators 2-1 in Game 6.

The Canucks' twos trip to the final came 1982 when they lost in four straight games to the New York Islanders, and 1994, when they lost in seven games to the New York Rangers.

The Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy this year for the first time in franchise history for finishing the regular season with a league-leading 117 points. That was 12 more than the Sharks, who finished second in the Western Conference.

Notes: Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, out with an upper body injury, and Aaron Rome, undisclosed, did not dress. ...The Canucks set an NHL playoff record by scoring three five-on-three power-play goals in Sunday's 4-2 victory. ...Sunday afternoon's game in San Jose drew an audience of 2.6 million on CBC, that was down from 3.16 million for Friday night's match. ...Canadian rocker Colin James played with The Odds on the arena video screen prior to the game.