The Goods: Two for the show
Kevin Bieksa put his hands to great use in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks were even at 2-2 midway through the second period when the Canucks gathered and broke out of their own zone. Bieksa tore down the right wing and as he crossed the blueline, Chris Higgins hit him tape-to-tape with the puck, which he put five-hole on Antti Niemi.
Five minutes later, tempers boiled over as San Jose’s Patrick Marleau dropped the gloves with Bieksa near centre ice. An even tilt it was not, Bieksa got the best of Marleau, which led to some undisciplined play from Ben Eager.
With 28 seconds remaining the period, Eager took a run at Daniel Sedin, knocking him into the boards and to the ice from behind. The Canucks forward was fine, but the obvious frustration from San Jose, paired with the Bieksa goal and fight, sent Vancouver to the locker room on a high.
In the final frame, the levees broke for the Sharks.
Vancouver outscored San Jose 4-1 over the final 20 minutes en route to a 7-3 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
Six Canucks found the back of the net and 12 had at least a point, led by Dan Hamhuis, Henrik Sedin and Higgins with three each, and despite a two-goal, three-assist effort from the Sedins, it was Bieksa’s turn in the spotlight.
With an assist on a Higgins power play goal early in the third, Bieksa completed hs first career Gordie Howe hat trick.
“I heard about it, Burr was the first guy to chirp me about it,” laughed Bieksa, who has goals in back-to-back games for the first time ever.
“It’s great, but the main thing is that we got the win.”
This was much more than a win, it was a statement thrashing, a total team effort filled with all four lines contributing offensively, all six defencemen doing what needed to be done at both ends of the rink, Roberto Luongo recording 28 saves and the Canucks going 3-for-7 on the power play.
“We did some good things obviously,” said Alex Burrows, who had an assist and led the Canucks in hits with eight. “Our PK could have been better, those two goals we’d like to have back, but five-on-five and on the power play we did a lot of good things and we’ve got to keep building on that.
“We took care of our home ice, we held serve, and now we have to go there and try to get Game 3, that’s where our focus shifts and we have to be ready for a big push by them.”
Bieksa handled the Sharks push on this night with a goal, an assist, plus-2 rating, fight win, a takeaway, a blocked shot and five hits.
Like Ryan Kesler against the Nashville Predators, Bieksa has become the face of the Canucks in this series, a face that might be up against a few fists again as the animosity between these teams, and between himself and Marleau, continues to build.
“First game we played pretty much every shift against each other and it’s looking like we’re going to play most shifts against each other for the rest of the series,” said Bieksa of his fight with Marleau.
“I don’t really know what started it, just two guys battling and it turned out to be a good battle.”
Expect all out war in Game 3 Friday night in San Jose with the Canucks trying to take a stranglehold on the series and the Sharks, who have lost eight consecutive Western Conference Final games dating back to 2004, battling for their lives.
San Jose coach Todd McLellan doesn’t believe Ben Eager should be suspended.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault believes the NHL will do the right thing.
“You guys saw the hit, I’m confidant the league is going to do the right thing,” said Vigneault, who joked that Daniel Sedin embellished the hit, in reference to the talk of the Canucks taking dives.
Overall, Vigneault was happy at how the Canucks responded to the hit. They remained disciplined and put one heckuva third period together to come away with another win, the team’s third consecutive this post-season.
“We’ve talked about playing whistle to whistle, we’ve talked about staying disciplined and that’s what we’ve done throughout the playoffs and we did it again tonight. When their fourth line player took a run at the NHL leading scorer, possibly the MVP, we stayed focused, we stayed disciplined and we went out and played.”
How great was Vancouver’s offence in Game 2?
Even Aaron Rome scored.
The Canucks defenceman, appearing in his 13th career playoff game, scored his first career goal with 5:30 remaining in the third period to put the Canucks ahead 6-2.
On what coach Alain Vigneault called “a set play,” Rome found himself behind the San Jose net with Daniel and Henrik Sedin working their magic in front.
Yes, Rome is a blueliner, but no, his roaming didn’t cost the Canucks – it led to a goal.
Off a Burrows backhand in front, Rome scooped up the rebound and beat Niemi.
“It felt great,” smiled Rome. “To be able to score in the playoffs, to be out there in that atmosphere, it was awesome. It was kind of a lucky goal, but you’ve got to be fortunate every now and again.
“It’s just nice not scoring it on an empty net.”
The Canucks improve to 2-0 when Rome scores this season, a stat not lost on Burrows, although he too was confused of what Rome was doing.
“He was behind the net, I don’t know what he was doing either,” laughed Burrows. “I’m sure AV will probably tell him to stay back next time.”