Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks blocks the shot of Zack Kassian #9 of the Vancouver Canucks in the third period of their game at HP Pavilion on January 27, 2013 in San Jose.
Photograph by: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Against a team that gives up almost nothing, the Vancouver Canucks surrendered far too much Sunday.
Needing to protect the puck, the Canucks instead tied ribbons and bows to it and eventually finished themselves off with a needless penalty in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks, who improved to 5-0-0 and look every bit the National Hockey League superpower.
The Canucks look like a 2-2-1 team, superb Friday in Anaheim, ordinary two nights later. The discipline and special-teams execution that allowed them to shoot down the Ducks 5-0 did not make the charter to Northern California.
Vancouver's power play was 0-for-7 and awful at a critical stage early in third period, failing to score when San Jose forward Ryane Clowe went nutty, earning a double-minor and game misconduct penalties at 19:33 of the second period. The Sharks' power play finished 2-for-8 and sealed the game with a goal that made it 3-1 at 14:27 of the second period – 1:51 after Max Lapierre killed Canuck momentum by taking a reckless cross-checking penalty 190 feet up ice.
The Canucks made the return trip to SoCal after the loss and need to beat the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings tonight to make their California trip a success.
Sunday was a major step back for a Canuck team that had worked hard to put its dismal opening weekend of the 48-game regular season behind it.
“If we get a win tomorrow, it's a good road trip; that's the way we've got to look at it,” Canuck winger Daniel Sedin said. “The start (against the Sharks) shouldn't happen. It's tough to beat any team in this league when you're down 2-0, especially this team in their building.
“When you give those type of guys those kind of chances, it usually ends up in the back of your net. We stepped up and played pretty good after that. But a 2-0 lead, like I said, it's tough to come back against any team.”
If you arrived four minutes late, you missed the kind of chances Sedin referred to: turnovers in the slot by Canuck defencemen Alex Edler and Jason Garrison that led to point-blank scoring chances that a couple of Joes – Thornton and Pavelski – buried at 0:43 and 3:26 of the first period.
Garrison cleared a rebound straight on to Thornton's stick, while Edler, who unlike his defence partner had plenty of time to assess his options with the puck, half-fanned a pass to Pavelski.
Canuck goalie Cory Schneider had no chance against Thornton, but guessed correctly on Pavelski and had the Shark's high wrister go in off his catching glove.
“If I make that big save on the second one, maybe it turns out differently,” Schneider said. “You give them second opportunities or chances in front of the net, they're going to do some damage. But I'm sure they were just honest mistakes. That's just how the game works sometimes.”
The game rarely works well when you give away the puck in front of your net.
“I was trying to go higher, saucer pass, and just missed it completely,” Edler lamented. “It's a tough start and not the start we wanted, obviously.”
Garrison said he didn't have time to look around before clearing the puck to Thornton.
“I didn't see him and definitely fanned on it,” he said. “I was just trying to clear the front of the net and, unfortunately, it just popped on his stick. You can't give easy goals like that to those guys. They make you pay for it and it's hard to come back. We didn't put ourselves in a good position from the first few minutes.”
The final 56 minutes actually weren't too bad for the Canucks, although the Sharks always looked comfortable with their lead.
San Jose goalie Antti Niemi faced few quality chances and the only shot that beat him, from Alex Burrows, bounced back into his net off Sharks' defenceman Dan Boyle at 11:05 of the middle period.
Two shifts later, Lapierre cross-checked Andrew Desjardins into the Sharks' net on a Canuck scoring chance. And less than two minutes after that, the Sharks restored their two-goal lead when Logan Couture's shot pinballed off players from both teams before finally striking Marleau and trickling past Schneider.
Lapierre lacked discipline and accountability, bristling at a reporter's question regarding his obvious penalty.
“You've seen it, so why do you want me to explain it?” he said. “Make sure you have a good story tomorrow? I think it was a hockey play. I was trying to cut to the net. That's it.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault didn't think it was a hockey play and has the option to cut Lapierre from the lineup tonight to make room for Manny Malhotra. Vancouver's top faceoff man was scratched Sunday on a night when San Jose dominated the faceoff circle 42-20.
“A couple of unforced errors that landed right on their tape and ended up in the back of our net,” Vigneault said of the start. “For us, what was important was how we responded and I thought we responded real well. The second half of that period and the second period until Max took that penalty, we had total momentum. It was a one-goal game and then their power play – it's one of the best right now I've seen in a long time – came out and they got momentum back.
“It's disappointing you take a penalty 200 feet from your net, but it's behind us now and we'll get ready for tomorrow.”
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