Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Special teams nightmare for Sharks

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

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Alex Burrows celebrates after giving the Canucks a 4-0 lead early in the third period Sunday as Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi looks on in Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference final. Three of the four goals came on the power play. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Alex Burrows celebrates after giving the Canucks a 4-0 lead early in the third period Sunday as Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi looks on in Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference final. Three of the four goals came on the power play. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

If the Vancouver-San Jose series gets weirder than this, expect meteors, locusts and rivers of pudding for Game 5.

But don't expect weirder to equate to a San Jose rally, as the Sharks managed to cut their own throats so often in the 4-2 loss in Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference final that it looked like crosscut saw work.

Blowing five consecutive power plays in 21 minutes was enough on its own to doom any team, but San Jose then compounded its death wish by committing four indisputably bad penalties of its own in 2:46 of the second period, leading to three 5-on-3 advantages for the Canucks that within 37 seconds became three goals, a post-season record stretching back even to before the Seattle Millionaires and the Ottawa Silver Seven.

But as if they hadn't done enough, or had enough done to them, the Sharks also lost captain/best player Joe Thornton on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Raffi Torres just inside the final 11 minutes that may not allow him to play in Tuesday's fifth game in Vancouver.

Put another way, San Jose was legitimately routed in a game in which it outshot the Canucks 35-13 and 26-7 in five-on-five play. They managed eight shots in those five power plays, or five more than the Canucks needed to score its three goals in 1:55. And they held the Sedins, Daniel and Henrik, to seven assists and defenceman Sami Salo to three points amid those three shots.

Frankly, it's a wonder they were allowed to keep their pants by game's end.

"I wish I had the answer," head coach Todd McLellan said of his team's bizarre performance after such a seemingly promising start. "You could see it.  We got what we wanted. We got some energy. We got the crowd into it. We earned opportunities on the power play. You could see the passes. We watched a couple of them. The passing was off. The receiving was off. The timing was off. There wasn't much rhythm. I have to believe some of that's mental, some of it's physical, a combination of both."

And now, with Game 5 approaching, there isn't much more to say than, "be on time."

"There's probably not a lot I have to tell them," he said. "Their backs are against the wall as close as they can be. We kind of laid it on the line in the third period tonight. That's what we'll be looking to do in Vancouver. We know we've got a tough task ahead of us. Vancouver knows, we know, Detroit knows, Chicago knows that anything can happen."

But not like this. Ever.

Line Combinations

SAN JOSE

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Jamie McGinn-Andrew Desjardins-Jamal Mayers

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

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki