Henrik Sedin is not painting a masterpiece in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, but he and twin brother Daniel were a big reason why the Vancouver Canucks earned a leg up in the NHL's Western Conference final Sunday.
Henrik Sedin had just one empty-net goal and eight assists through the first two rounds of the NHL postseason, but he beat Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi midway through the third period to complete a comeback and give the Canucks a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
It came on a perfectly executed power play, as point man Christian Ehrhoff patiently waited for Sedin to get open, than fed him a pinpoint pass in the slot. Ehrhoff said the Canucks adjusted to San Jose's aggressive penalty killing as the game went along, and after blowing their first three opportunities.
"We want to use the middle of the ice a little more," Sedin said of the adjustment. "It's usually open. But it's a matter of making those plays and having the guts to do it."
The goal came with San Jose's Dany Heatley in the box for elbowing, and just 79 seconds after Kevin Bieksa scored to knot the score 2-2. Heatley didn't like the penalty, and was also robbed of a breakaway by an errant offside call in the second period.
"Poor execution," defenceman Doug Murray said in summation of San Jose's effort. "We didn't make plays. Short passes were messed up, and our dumps were poor."
In the third round for the first time in 17 years, several celebrities came out to support the hometown team -- although the building was desperately lacking energy until the final period, much quieter than the enthusiasm of Round 1, when the hated Chicago Blackhawks were the opponent. Crooner Michael Bublé, actor Cory Monteith, Finn from Glee, and guitarist Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip were among the 18,860 at a sold out Rogers Arena.
Niemi finished with 36 saves, and was the best goalie on the ice. He was particularly excellent with loose pucks around his own crease, and it appears the Canucks will have to shoot for the top part of the net to score goals in this series.
Vancouver had six days off going into this series, and has won all three openers in this playoff run. The Sharks, meanwhile, were coming off an emotional seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings, which concluded Thursday, and had just seven shots in the final frame.
It was Vancouver's first third-period comeback in these playoffs, and it was sealed when winger Daniel Sedin won an important face-off in the final minute. That capped an excellent stretch for the Canucks, who were easily the best team in the final 25 minutes.
"We didn't have it in the third," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We looked tired. We looked sluggish...We were like dogs chasing cars on the freeway: we just weren't catching anybody."
Maxim Lapierre tied the game 1-1 less than two minutes into the second period, finishing a pretty tic-tac-toe goal for Vancouver's third line. Lapierre, Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres were the Canucks' best trio, and earned high praise from their teammates and coaches.
The Sharks regained the lead midway through the period after Mason Raymond was penalized for holding. Patrick Marleau tipped a Dan Boyle point shot past Roberto Luongo, only the second power-play goal allowed by Vancouver in the last nine games.
The Sharks led 1-0 after one period, getting a huge gift when Luongo cleared the puck directly onto captain Joe Thornton's stick with 73 seconds left before intermission.