Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Sharks lose their legs late

Categories: San Jose Sharks, VAN vs. SJS, Vancouver Canucks

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San Jose forward Dany Heatley, left, seen colliding with Alex Edler of Vancouver, took the critical penalty in the third period of Game 1. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) San Jose forward Dany Heatley, left, seen colliding with Alex Edler of Vancouver, took the critical penalty in the third period of Game 1. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

San Jose discovered that staying even with Vancouver is just another way of saying, "preparing to fall behind to Vancouver."

And that is useful information to have if the Sharks plan to stick around longer in this Western Conference final than the last one.

"I thought for 37 minutes we were able to skate," head coach Todd McLellan said. "We needed to get a couple more opportunities to go in for us. Basically what happened, I thought, [was that] the team that potentially was rusty, because they hadn't played for a while, found their legs while we lost ours. When you look at the route we took to get here, they had a few days off.  We had an emotional, taxing game. You know we're lucky enough to be playing."

Well, one can make the argument that letting Detroit back in the semifinal series after being up 3-0 is not exactly a ringing endorsement for their chances against the Canucks.

And you don't get that many chances to make a first impression.

"There's been a lot of talk about sitting and waiting or playing every second night throughout the whole playoffs," said Henrik Sedin, who scored the game-winning goal. "You look at Detroit. They had a lot of time off before their second round. They lost three straight to start the series. We're professional hockey players. We prepare the same way if we play one game in 10 days or two in three nights. It's not going to change."

San Jose played the Canucks even through 35 minutes, although there were signs in the first period that the Sharks were flatter than they need to be, including being hammered 12-5 in the face-off circle, one of their typical strengths.

But after a frantic 70-second flurry in front of the San Jose net inside the last three minutes of the second period, the Sharks either had nothing left, or lost the power to rise on the back of goaltender Antti Niemi and turn that performance into a rallying point.

"There are nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp," McLellan said. "I didn't think that was the case tonight. It started with the ears and worked all the way through the body. We were like dogs chasing cars down the freeway."

And the cars win that one every time. Even when they stop in a hurry.

SAN JOSE

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager-Scott Nichol-Jamal Mayers

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Niclas Wallin
Kent Huskins-Ian White

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki