Sharks
Canucks
2 - 3 Final - 2OT
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Canucks win in 2OT, into Finals for 1st time since '94

May 25, 2011 - 7:07 AM
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks are headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals, ending a journey that was exactly 17 years in the making.

Kevin Bieksa scored on a knuckling slap shot midway through the second overtime, lifting the Canucks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Ryan Kesler scored with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for the Canucks, who will play for the Stanley Cup for the first time since they were beaten by the New York Rangers in 1994.

That year, Vancouver captured the Western Conference championship with a double-overtime win in Game 5 against Toronto.

The date? It was Tuesday, May 24 -- 17 years ago to the day.

The only thing more bizarre than that fact was how this game ended.

Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler, trying to play the puck up the right boards, had it deflect off a partition instead. The only player who seemed to know where it landed was Bieksa, but only because it bounced right to him.

"I don't know how the puck got there," Bieksa said. "It took a Vancouver bounce. I just tried to put it on net."

Taking aim, he caught the puck with a slap shot that bounded towards the side of the net. By the time San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi saw it, it was passing his left pad.

The top-seeded Canucks celebrated, piling against one another, and confetti rained from the rafters. But there was some confusion as to what happened. Referees huddled together, but replays clearly showed how it unfolded.

"It's an ugly goal, but definitely one I'll take," Bieksa added.

Roberto Luongo had 54 saves, including 20 in the overtime periods, but he also made a costly mistake that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead early in the third period.

"I'm really excited right now. I've worked my whole life to be in this situation," Luongo said. "It's a great feeling, just looking forward to starting the next series."

Alexandre Burrows also scored for Vancouver, while Edler and Henrik Sedin both had two assists.

The Canucks will play either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston leads that Eastern Conference series, 3-2.

Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi scored for the second-seeded Sharks, who fell to 3-12 all-time in the conference finals. Niemi had 31 saves, stopping all nine shots he faced in the first overtime, but there was little he could do on the last shot.

"It was about bounces," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We felt good as the game went on, but we obviously didn't get the win and that's what we came here for."

The Canucks entered Tuesday just 2-4 in elimination games during this postseason. They were bound for their fifth loss after Setoguchi's go-ahead goal 24 seconds into the third period.

On the play, Luongo left the net on an ill-advised attempt to clear a loose puck that was tumbling into the slot. With just his left hand on his stick, Joe Pavelski dove to knock the puck to his right, flipping it perfectly to Setoguchi for a one-timer into a wide-open net.

Kesler, who appeared to injure his leg earlier in the game, won a timely faceoff in the San Jose and scored to tie the game.

Pulling Luongo for an extra attacker, the Canucks cycled the puck until Sedin took a long shot from the right boards. Kesler was in perfect position for the deflection, sitting to Niemi's left.

Luongo made two big saves just over six minutes into the first overtime to keep the Canucks alive. He stuck his left pad out to stop Torrey Mitchell's slap shot from the left side, then gloved Kyle Wellwood's wide-open wrister from the slot.

Before Bieksa's game-winner, the two biggest plays in the second overtime were defenseman Douglas Murray's huge shoulder check on Kesler in the San Jose zone and Vancouver forward Chris Higgins's failed breakaway attempt.

Higgins got behind the defense and deked to try to beat Niemi through the legs, but the Sharks goaltender shut his pads for the stop.

The Canucks struck first in the game, taking a 1-0 lead at 8:02 of the first period after two deft passes by the Sedin twins. Facing the glass, Daniel Sedin gained the puck at the end boards and slipped a pass backwards between his legs to Henrik, who found Burrows for a one-timer in the slot.

The Sharks tied the game on a power play midway through the second period when Dan Boyle's wrist shot from the point was re-directed out of the air by Marleau in front.

Marleau wasn't the only player in front of Luongo. Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard tried to glove the puck out of the air from his position in the slot, causing an unneeded distraction.

Kesler finished the game despite coming up limp on a play late in the second period and favoring his left leg. He wasn't the only hurting star on the ice.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton played despite suffering an upper body injury on a hit from Vancouver's Raffi Torres in Game 4. Thornton had two good chances in the first period, but was stopped by Luongo both times.

Luongo stoned Marleau's point-blank try from the slot in the opening minutes of the game, then squeezed Thornton's rebound in between his pads as he laid on his back.

Later in the period, before the Sharks went on a two-man advantage, Luongo let an initial shot pass through his legs -- it skirted the length of the goal line, but stayed out -- and then stopped Thornton's sharp-angle shot from the left side.

Game Notes

Henrik Sedin opted not to hoist the conference championship trophy in a superstition that is often followed by team captains...The Canucks lost to the Rangers in seven games in '94. They are trying to become the first team to lead the NHL in points during the regular season, then go on to win the Stanley Cup, since Detroit in 2008.