Just when it seemed like the San Jose Sharks would have to make an unwanted trip back to Vancouver, their power play clicked, and gave the franchise something it never experienced.
Patrick Marleau scored a power-play goal 13:18 into overtime and the Sharks completed their first playoff sweep, beating the visiting Vancouver Canucks 4-3 on Tuesday night.
"It's a big relief," coach Todd McLellan said. "There was a lot invested in this physically, a lot of energy expelled. So the fact that we came away with a win is great. We don't have to get on the plane tomorrow, we can get some rest. I think it will work in our favour."
Joe Pavelski scored his second power-play goal of the game to tie it with 4:27 left in regulation. Brent Burns also scored, Joe Thornton had three assists and Antti Niemi made 32 saves for the Sharks, who will now get a break before beginning the second round of the playoffs next week.
Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows and Alexander Edler scored for the Canucks, who were unable to hold onto a late third-period lead for the second time this series and head into the off-season after a second straight first-round exit with many questions surrounding coach Alain Vigneault and the rest of the franchise.
"This year, this is not the way we wanted to end," captain Henrik Sedin said. "It was almost like we were a first time playoff team going to the box too many times. A lot of guys have been together for a long time. It's very disappointing because you only have so many chances."
Cory Schneider made 43 saves, but gave up the rebound that led to Marleau's series-clinching goal after Daniel Sedin was sent off for boarding Tommy Wingels on a call that irked the Canucks.
"It's the playoffs, it's shoulder to shoulder. I didn't talk to the ref, I screamed. I apologized to him later. But it was a bad call," Daniel Sedin said. "We didn't lose the series on that one call. We lost it earlier in the series."
Lethal power play
The Sharks came through with their third power-play goal of the night and seventh of the series to win it. Thornton's shot hit off Schneider and the puck was bouncing in the crease when Marleau raced in and just got his stick on it to score the winner, setting off a wild celebration at the Shark Tank.
"I was kind of yelling for him to shoot it," Marleau said. "I don't know if he heard me, but it was a great play by him just to get it on net. It was just lying there on the side of the net and I was able to bat it home."
Marleau scored in all four games this series, to give him 56 career playoff goals and 14 game-winners, quieting some of his many critics for some past playoff disappointments.
"It's great to see Patty do what he does after what he takes in the media and what people say about him and his character, stuff like that," linemate Logan Couture said. "It's good to see Patty be successful."
The Canucks have lost 10 of their past 11 playoff games since taking a 3-2 lead over Boston in the Stanley Cup final two years ago. They lost the final two games of that series to the Bruins to miss out on the first title in franchise history. Vancouver then fell in five games as the top seed in the Western Conference to eventual champion Los Angeles in the first round last year and was blitzed by the sixth-seeded Sharks this year.
The Canucks have scored just 18 goals in their past 11 post-season games, including none for the Sedin twins in this series.
Vancouver took the lead with two goals in a span of 1:50 midway through the third period. The first came on the power play when Andrew Desjardins was sent off for roughing. Henrik Sedin set up the tying goal with a nifty blind pass to twin brother Daniel, who fed Burrows in front of the net for the easy tap-in.
Then Burrows won a battle for the puck in the corner and fed Edler in the high slot for a slap shot. It beat Antti Niemi and gave the Canucks their first lead since Patrick Marleau's tying goal in the final minute of regulation in Game 2 in Vancouver.
Target of boos
But just as in Game 2, Vancouver couldn't hold onto a late lead after Kevin Bieksa was sent off for cross-checking Wingels. Bieksa complained on the off-day that the Sharks embellished penalties and lacked integrity, making his infraction even sweeter for the sold-out crowd that booed him all night.
Bieksa could only watch from the penalty box as Pavelski pounced on a rebound of Logan Couture's shot and knocked a backhand into the open net for his fourth goal in the past two games.
Pavelski did not record a point a year ago when San Jose was knocked out in five games in the first round by St. Louis, but is a major reason the Sharks are back in the second round for the third time in four seasons.
"We learned a lot in the third period, allowed them back in it," he said. "But our power play came through and we're here."
Vigneault stuck with Schneider one game after he was pulled in the third period after allowing five goals on 28 shots.
The move didn't pay immediate dividends as Vancouver fell behind after the opening period for the third straight game. The Sharks struck quickly when Burns tipped in a point shot from Scott Hannan less than three minutes into the game.
The Canucks tied it when Raymond's shot from inside the blue line hit off Sharks defender Brad Stuart and beat Niemi.
Stuart was involved in San Jose's second goal when he took a boarding penalty from Derek Roy in the neutral zone, just the latest unnecessary penalty by the Canucks. The Sharks made Vancouver pay when Pavelski got the rebound of Marleau's point shot, spun around and beat Schneider.