In a very physical game where every inch of the ice was at stake, the Vancouver Canucks came from behind to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in the opening game of the Western conference Finals at Rogers Arena.
Compared to last night's Eastern Conference match between Boston and Tampa Bay, tonight's game had far more intensity by both teams and showed what Western Conference hockey is all about.
Vancouver was 3-0-1 against the Sharks in the regular season and found a way to win on Sunday night. The scoring started when the teams traded goals that started with weak efforts by the goalies.
San Jose took a 1-0 lead when Roberto Luongo made a weak clearing pass that Joe Thornton intercepted and returned to Luongo's net. Early in the second, a one-handed shove by Antti Niemi set up a series of passes that allowed an easy goal by Max LaPierre to open the Canuck scoring.
Later in the second period, Patrick Marleau tipped a shot from Dan Boyle that baffled Luongo and gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
The third period was all Canucks as they out shot the Sharks 13-7 and clearly had more jump from the start. The Canucks scored twice in 79 seconds to claim the lead that they never relinquished.
Kevin Bieksa and Henrik Sedin each scored their second goal of the playoffs to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead that ended up as the final score.
It was the Canucks' third line that provided the spark for the team led by LaPierre and helped by Jannik Hansen and Raffi Tores. They provided plenty of energy and matched up well with the Joe Pavelski line for the Sharks.
In the post-game, Todd McLellan described the Sharks' sluggish third period effort as being like "dogs chasing cars on the freeway," which was descriptive of the energy level in the final period when Vancouver found a different gear.
Both teams will have a couple of days off with game two set for 8 p.m.CDT on Wednesday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass