Henrik Sedin did it all on Sunday evening.
The Canucks captain scored the game-winner in Vancouver's 3-2 victory in the series opener against the San Jose Sharks. He helped set up teammate Kevin Bieksa’s game-tying goal 79 seconds earlier in the third period of the West final. The Canucks captain even provided some levity on the bench in the final minute with Vancouver clinging to that one-goal lead.
With 56 seconds remaining, the Canucks were caught icing the puck. But because it was a 4-on-4 situation with San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle in the penalty box for holding and Vancouver forward Maxim Lapierre whistled for a diving infraction, the Canucks did not have a centre on the ice.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault called a timeout and chose Daniel Sedin over Alex Burrows to take the draw. But before the critical face-off occurred, in which Daniel beat San Jose’s Joe Pavelski, Henrik leaned over to suggest to Vigneault that he and Daniel switch sweaters so the natural centre could face Pavelski.
"They’re always thinking and sometimes they’re thinking outside the box," Vigneault said. "You have to be quick on your feet to think that.
"We have all been saying for quite some time that we need them to produce and finish all those quality chances."
It was a huge relief for Henrik that he not only scored, but scored such a crucial goal. He had gone nearly 14 games without an non empty-net goal. In front of reporters, Henrik, his brother and his coach tried to convince the interrogators that everything was still acceptable because they were getting chances.
Well, finally Henrik finished one. Even the in-house production crew paid tribute to the long-time coming goal by playing over the speaker system "It’s Alive" from the old Frankenstein movie.
"We rarely read the newspapers or watch the hockey coverage on TV," Henrik said. "I mean, we come to the rink. We know when we're not playing well. We don't have to hear that from anyone else. There have been games where we haven't been happy with our performance. There's been other games where we've been happy with the way we played.
"Still, a few of those games we've ended up being minus a lot in the game. That doesn't help in the coverage. But, like I said, we're a group that doesn't really get bothered by that stuff. Everyone has been positive in the room. That's been helpful."
The Sharks held a 2-1 advantage entering the final 20 minutes thanks to the strong play of Niemi, but the tide began to turn in the final three minutes of the second period thanks to back-to-back shifts from the Ryan Kesler line and the third line of Lapierre, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen.
Niemi, with some help from Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Ryan Clowe, somehow kept the puck out during a wild goal-mouth scramble and Niemi made another brilliant left pad stop on Hansen on the next shift.
The Sharks were out of gas at this time. They built a 2-1 lead sandwiching goals from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau around one from Lapierre. But being three days removed from their emotional Game 7 victory against the Detroit Red Wings left them with nothing in the tank, and the Canucks knew it.
"That was the momentum changer, the frantic flurry, if you will, about three minutes left in the second," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "They were coming pretty hard at that point. We wanted to get into the locker room and recover a little bit. We didn't have any in the third.
"I thought our team looked tired, sluggish. There's nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp. 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. We weren't catching anybody. We put the puck into very poor spots.
They eventually beat us at the type of game we wanted to play. They laid it in behind, they won a lot of races, they sustained offensive zone time.
"We got to find a way to get energized as a hockey club. That starts with the mental part of it first. Come back and play better in Game 2."
Game 2 will take place Wednesday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. PT).
Maybe the Sharks will benefit from two days off before the next game on Wednesday. But San Jose had no answer in the third period and mustered only seven shots on goal to the Canucks’ 13.
Thornton’s goal was a gift from a tape-to-tape pass from Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo that the Canucks goaltender claimed afterwards was the result of a broken stick that had been slashed moments earlier.
Vancouver wound up out-shooting its opponents 38-29.