Bieksa sparks Canucks' rout of Sharks
After seven one-goal wins and a pair of two-goal victories, not only did the jittery Vancouver Canucks fans appreciate the blowout result over the San Jose Sharks, but the Canucks themselves did as well.
"It was nice, trust me," said Canucks forward Chris Higgins, who scored once and set up two more in the Canucks 7-3 thumping to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference final on Wednesday.
"I've been saying for a while that I wish we could win one by three," Higgins added with a wide grin. "It was little more than that tonight, but mentally it was nice to have a game like that."
The Sharks couldn't even accuse their opponents of running up the score because they kept giving the Canucks power-play opportunities.
There were so many positive components to Vancouver's game. The power play checked in with three goals. Higgins was excellent with his three-point game. Daniel Sedin scored twice and his brother Henrik had three assists. Dan Hamhuis chipped in three helpers, too, and he and his partner Kevin Bieksa could afford to be rested in the third period because of the comfortable lead.
Bieksa didn't need the break. He was the best Vancouver performer, as evident by his Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a thumping of San Jose star forward Patrick Marleau a few shifts after Bieksa put the Canucks in front 3-2 late in the second period.
"He's a huge part of this team and he had another big game for us tonight," Higgins said. "He's a leader in our locker room and he has been stepping up since I got traded to this team. He's continued to impress me every game.
"I think we all know what he brings to the table. [Fighting] is only one component of his game, but I think we saw a little bit of everything from him tonight."
The turning point in this game was debatable. It could have been the Bieksa goal or his fight or the nasty penalty from San Jose fourth-liner Ben Eager when he slammed Daniel Sedin into the sideboards after the Bieksa-Marleau dustup.
But Bieksa continues to be a major player in the Canucks' playoff run that now has them only two victories away from a berth in the Stanley Cup final.
On his fight with Marleau, it was the Sharks forward who dropped his gloves first and challenged Bieksa. Did this surprise the Canucks blue-liner who has fought 27 times in his career to Marleau's six, and first since Dec. 2007?
"Well, maybe a little bit at first," Bieksa said. "But he's a big boy. I thought he did a good job. For a guy that has been criticized in the media often, most recently, I thought he did a good job of battling, sticking up for himself.
"Like I said, it was just two guys battling. It's good for the game. We're happy with the way the outcome was."
Marleau was left with a two distinguishable marks on his face.
"I have an older brother, too, so I'm used to getting it," Marleau joked.
"Yeah, it was a heat of the moment kind of thing. We just exchanged shots [along the boards] and I decided to drop the gloves. At that point we were still trying to get things going, get our game going. There was no real big reason.
"I haven't fought too many times. But I dropped my gloves. It was my decision."
For his part Daniel Sedin, did not complain about Eager's hit from behind that earned him a two-minute boarding penalty.
"I turned my back," he said. "I didn't realize he was coming that hard. But it's going to happen in a game. I'm fine. So that's all that matters.
"He got two minutes. I don't know if it should have been more. The referee has done a great job I think throughout the playoffs to make the right calls, so we're happy."
The game was tied 2-2 after the first period and Bieksa's goal put his club ahead 3-2 entering the final 20 minutes. The Canucks busted the game wide open in the third period beginning with a power-play goal from Higgins after Eager took another unnecessary penalty when he tripped Mason Raymond on his way to the Canucks bench.