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Sedin, Canucks take Game 1 against Sharks

May 16, 2011 - 4:39 AM
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Henrik Sedin's power-play goal near the midway mark of the third period lifted the Vancouver Canucks over the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Sedin also had an assist for the Canucks, who ousted Nashville in six games to move one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994, then they beat Toronto for the Western Conference title before losing to the New York Rangers in seven games.

Kevin Bieksa and Maxim Lapierre also lit the lamp for Vancouver, which got 27 saves from Roberto Luongo.

"We're here to score goals and produce. That's tough do in the playoffs," Sedin said. "I think a lot of games we played well and had our chances but pucks haven't gone our way. Tonight we started out being minus-1 after the first two. That's a tough start but we battled back."

Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have never made the Stanley Cup Finals before and own a dismal 2-9 record in 11 all-time conference finals games. The Sharks lost in six games to Calgary in the 2004 West finals and were swept last year by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

Patrick Marleau also scored for San Jose, which beat the Red Wings in seven games to get back to the conference finals.

Antti Niemi turned aside 35-of-38 shots in defeat.

Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Vancouver.

Trailing by a goal in the third period, the top-seeded Canucks scored a pair in a 79-second span to take the lead. Alexandre Burrows carried the puck to the bottom of the left circle before passing to the opposite circle. Bieksa was right there to fire a wrister past Niemi to make it 2-2 at the 7:02 mark.

Just 32 seconds later, San Jose forward Dany Heatley was sent to the penalty box for elbowing. Sedin would capitalize for Vancouver. Christian Ehrhoff controlled the puck at the point and slid a pass in front for Sedin. A nice move by Sedin got Niemi out of position, and he put a backhander into an empty net at the 8:21 mark for the 3-2 edge.

The Sharks failed to tie the game despite pulling Niemi with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining for the extra attacker.

"I thought our team looked tired. I thought our team looked sluggish," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "There's nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp, and I didn't think that was the case tonight. It started between the ears and it worked all the way through the body. We were like dogs chasing cars on the freeway. We just weren't catching anybody."

A mistake by Luongo late in the first period led to the first goal of the game. Luongo controlled the puck behind the net prior to making a perfect pass to the wrong team. Thornton was right there to put the puck into the empty net for a 1-0 lead with 1:13 remaining.

Lapierre lit the lamp just 1:49 into the middle stanza to make it a 1-1 game. Jannik Hansen controlled the disc behind the net and slid a pass in front for Lapierre, whose tip-in beat Niemi.

San Jose converted on its first power play of the game to take the lead back. Dan Boyle's blast from the point was deflected in front by Marleau. The puck changed direction and beat Luongo for a 2-1 margin at the 8:44 mark.

Game Notes

The Canucks posted a record of 3-0-1 in the regular season against the Sharks. These two teams have never met in the playoffs before...Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson missed the game with a lower-body injury...Both San Jose and Vancouver survived blowing 3-0 series leads to get to this stage. Vancouver squandered a 3-0 edge against Chicago in the opening round before taking Game 7 over the Blackhawks in overtime. In the conference semifinal round, the Sharks won the first three games against Detroit, but wound up having to win Game 7 to get back to the West finals.