The Goods: Power trip
From déjà vu to never seen before, Game 4 of the Western Conference Final offered up a little of everything.
Five consecutive penalties were dealt to the Vancouver Canucks before the San Jose Sharks were assessed five straight, three of which the Canucks capitalized on in a 4-2 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
For the third consecutive game the Canucks took a minor penalty less than three minutes into the first period; there’s no need to bring up what that led to Game 3.
In Game 4 it was a different story as Vancouver killed it off, along with the four minors that followed going into the second period. Of the first 24:06 of the game, the Canucks were shorthanded for 10 minutes, yet allowed only eight shots.
It was an incredible display of penalty killing and what followed was more absurd than most things the playoffs have to offer.
San Jose was penalized five times in a span of five minutes and change, leading to three 5-on-3 advantages for Vancouver.
Ryan Kesler scored on the first, Sami Salo scored on the scored and Salo potted his second on the third as the Canucks became the first team in NHL post-season history to score three 5-on-3 goals in a single game.
At the 11:11 mark of the second period, the Canucks were 3-for-4 on the power play and a perfect 5-for-5 on the kill.
Special teams? More like spectacular teams.
“When you can kill that many off in a row, it builds momentum,” said Kevin Bieksa, who led all Canucks skaters in ice time at 26:48, 4:17 of that shorthanded.
“We survived the first, then we got our opportunities and we made them pay.”
More like held them upside down shaking them for every last penny.
The Canucks tallied three goals in just 1:55 to eclipse the previous franchise record for fastest three goals in playoff history, which Jim Sandlak, Rich Sutter and Garth Butcher set April 13, 1989, in a 6-3 Vancouver win over the Calgary Flames.
With all that time spent up two men, you’d assume the Canucks peppered Antti Niemi with shots, but that wasn’t the case. Vancouver scored on their first three shots of the period and tested the goaltender only once more in the frame.
Quality, not quantity, was the offensive theme for the Canucks as they set a new team record for lowest shots in a playoff game with 13.
Alex Burrows scored 5:43 into the third period to all but ice the game. San Jose replied with a pair of goals, the second coming with just over four minutes remaining to make things interesting, but it was too little, too late.
Between the pipes Roberto Luongo stopped 33 shots for his league-leading 11th playoff win, while Niemi turned aside just nine pucks.
Ryan Kesler said it best: “That’s why he’s our captain.”
Henrik Sedin had a game for the record books, literally, as he appeared to have the puck on a string while assisting on all four goals for the Vancouver Canucks.
Canucks history books were re-written by Henrik as he set the franchise record for assists in a period (3), most assists in a game (4), most assists in a playoff series (9) and most assists in a playoff year (17), while matching Trevor Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Pavel Bure and Russ Courtnall for most points in a game (4).
Henrik upped his career playoff total to 59 points (19-40-59) to pass Cliff Ronning for 4th all-time in franchise playoff scoring, two back of Geoff Courtnall for third place.
Vancouver's captain is currently the playoff scoring leader with two goals and 17 assists for 19 points. He had four points in six games against Nashville and already has 10 points in four games against San Jose, two back of the club record for points in a series.
The prettiest play of the night award also goes to Henrik for his deft 2-on-1 backhand pass, through the legs of Niemi, to Alex Burrows, who tapped it in for Vancouver’s fourth goal.
It was video game good.
“I didn’t even see it,” said Burrows, “It just hit my stick and went in.
“Every time I have a chance to get in on a 2-on-1 with him, I just try to keep my stick on the ice and hope that it comes and make sure I’m ready. That was a great play by him.”
Daniel Sedin, who finished with a lowly three assists, had the quote of the night about this brother: “He’s been criticized for not shooting and tonight I think he showed why he shouldn’t shoot, he should pass it instead. He was awesome.”
SALO’S SLAPPER SINKS SHARKS
Between Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Final, Sami Salo took a little off the top and shaved his head.
He said it was the army look he had when he was 18 and, right on cue, he played like he was 18.
The man with one of the most lethal shots in the NHL found the back of the net with bombs from the point on two occasions, he also assisted on the game’s first goal, for the first two goal and three point game of his playoff career.
Salo became with 11th Canucks player in team history to score twice in a period; oh how far the Finnish defenceman has come since returning to Vancouver’s line-up from off-season surgery on February 12th.
“For sure it's been a long journey this year, having a tough off season, but we worked really hard to get to this point and now it's really exciting,” said Salo, who was also injured in the opening round of the playoffs this season.
“All the years that I've been here, we've had great teams. Just seems this year that the team is really united together. Everybody is pulling together as a team.”
While it was Salo’s shot that ultimately did the damage, Kevin Bieksa joked that the Sharks finally clued in to its destructive potential and that made a world of difference.
“Last game was had a pretty lengthy 5-on-3 and those guys were diving in the way of his shot and I think they smartened up a little bit, realized he has the hardest shot in the league and weren’t as brave this time around,” he smirked.
The Canucks recorded only one 5-on-3 goal all regular season; Vancouver opened the scoring in Game 4 for the first time all series; 15 of 28 goals in this series have been scored on special teams; with 10:47 to play in the third period, Raffi Torres landed a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Joe Thornton from which the Sharks forward was forced to leave the game; Vancouver has set a new franchise record for power play goals in a series with nine.