The game-winning, series-clinching goal from Kevin Bieksa was bizarre and hardly a classic. But it was good enough to throw British Columbia a party like it was 1994 all over again.
On the 17th anniversary of Greg Adams' double-overtime goal to send the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup final for a second time in franchise history, Bieksa duplicated the feat. His strange double-overtime goal gave the Canucks a 3-2 win against an incredulous San Jose Sharks to win the Western Conference final and scratch a 17-year itch for the entire province on Tuesday.
Bieksa scored with nine minutes and 42 seconds in the second extra period. On the play, Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler was on the right point. He attempted to send the puck hard around the boards, but it bounded off a stanchion and backwards to Bieksa in the centre of the Sharks blue line.
With everybody, including San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, searching for the puck, Bieksa sent a knuckleball that found its way into the net.
"I barely got enough wood on it to get it to the net," said Bieksa, who scored four goals in the series. "I was just trying to get it to the net for a tip. I didn’t want to flub it.
"I think [San Jose forward Patrick] Marleau and I were the only ones on the ice who knew were the puck was."
Marleau was along the sideboards and tried to knock down Edler’s dump with his stick. It was such a strange ending to a game that saw Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who won 10 of 18 face-offs, gut it out with a separated shoulder. Sharks second-line left wing Ryane Clowe also revealed he played his team’s entire run with a shoulder injury that occurred late in the regular season.
The most painful aspect for the Sharks, however, was an icing call late in the regulation time that should have been nullified, but it went undetected by the on-ice officials and directly resulted in Ryan Kesler's tying goal with 13.2 tics left in regulation time.
The clearing pass from San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle clearly went off Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin before the puck found its resting place deep the Canucks end. Therefore the face-off should not have happened in the dying seconds.
"It was an icing call that went off of, I believe, one of the Sedin's shoulders," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It happened real fast, maybe hard to catch with the naked eye, obviously an error. But there's nothing we're doing about it now.
"We were yelling and screaming, but it wasn't going to change. There's been talk, throw the red flag or whatever. I guess in that case, we throw it pretty far if we could."
When the Clarence Campbell Trophy was presented by NHL deputy commissioner, Canucks captain Henrik Sedin did not touch the piece of hardware. But when Bieksa’s goal bounced its way home, blue and green confetti fell from the Roger Arena’s ceiling.
"It was great," Kesler said. "It doesn’t happen every year. We’ll celebrate, then we’ll find out who were going to play and we’ll get back to work."
The Canucks will play the winner of the East final between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Kesler hurt his left leg or groin when he got tangled up with Boyle in the second period just before Marleau redirected in a game-tying power-play goal. But Kesler returned after missing a few shifts and downplayed the ailment afterwards.
"No, I’m good," he said. "It didn’t hurt.
"The doctors took care of me and got me back out there quick. They did a good job and it felt good to get that one."
The Sharks went ahead 2-1 after Joe Pavelski beat Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to the puck and chipped it to linemate Devin Setoguchi 24 seconds into the third period.
But the Canucks mounted a comeback to close out the series at home, something they did not accomplish in the first two rounds in Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators.
"What it means is all the hard work was worth it," said Canucks forward Alex Burrows, who put his team in front 1-0 in the first period. "It’s nice to get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. It’s a dream come true."