The Vancouver Canucks may be without defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome when they continue the Western Conference final against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon.
But the possibility of missing two key blue-liners wasn't the only reason Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault lost his smile after his club was dumped 4-3 in Game 3 of the Western Conference final on Friday.
The Canucks coach didn't agree with some calls made by referees Dan O'Rourke and Brad Watson that gave the Sharks a whopping 10 power-play opportunities as they snapped an eight-game conference final losing streak to close the Canucks' series lead to 2-1.
But first the injuries to Ehrhoff and Rome. The former departed in the first period with a suspected shoulder injury and did not return. Rome was knocked woozy and was bloodied in third period when he got slammed into the boards by San Jose fourth-liner Jamie McGinn. Vigneault did agree with the referee's decision to give McGinn a five-minute boarding penalty as well as a game misconduct for his vicious hit.
"If I was Aaron Rome, I'd be upset right now," Vigneault said. "But I know that they got the right call on the ice. We'll see what happens."
But the calls on the ice against the Canucks?
"Well, we gave that team 10 power-plays," the Canucks coach said. "I thought we were pretty disciplined. So if I were to comment on what I think of the penalties, I'd get a pretty big fine so I'm going to save my money."
In total, the Sharks went 3-for-10 in man-advantage situations. All three power-play goals were important, too. They built a 2-0 lead in the first period when Patrick Marleau scored with Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre off for roughing and Ryane Clowe connected in the first-half of the double-minor high-sticking infraction on Ehrhoff.
Canucks sniper Daniel Sedin didn't agree with his coach.
"They earned those penalties," he said. "We have to be better. They took advantage of those penalties, but we have to better at the start."
As good as the Sharks start, the Canucks had a golden opportunity to get themselves back in the game in the second period with two separate 5-on-3 advantages that totalled a minute and 55 seconds. But Vancouver came up empty.
Yet, after Alex Burrows pulled the Canucks to within 3-1 early in the third period and Dan Boyle restored San Jose's three-goal lead during a 5-on-3 Sharks advantage, Vancouver defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa scored during McGinn's major to make for a nervous final four minutes for San Jose.
"We gave them a lot of momentum with the power plays and the next thing you know we're down by three," said Bieksa, in reference to San Jose's 3-0 lead after the first period.
"We got better as the game went on. We were pressing at the end. We found our game, but we ran out of time."
Of the 60 minutes, 26:09 was spent on the power play by both teams.
"It takes you out of your rhythm," Bieksa said.
Although both fourth lines played only five minutes, it's worth noting that San Jose head coach Todd McLellan decided to make a wholesale change to his fourth line. Ben Eager, who ran amok in Game 2 with discipline problems, Scott Nichol and Benn Ferriero were out. Jamal Mayers, McGinn and Andrew Desjardins went in.
Vigneault altered his fourth line, too. He dressed more muscle in Tanner Glass and Alexandre Bolduc and scratched the more skilled Jeff Tambellini and Cody Hodgson.
"I don't think it's as simple as taking Ben out of the line-up," said McLellan, who also lost forward Logan Couture after a scary incident when he collided with his teammate, Clowe, but afterwards Couture was pronounced fine by his coach for the next game.
"Ben Eager played four games against us last year and played very effectively for Chicago and didn't take any penalties," McLellan added. "He has the discipline to control himself. We just felt we would go with a different lineup."