Sundin finds net in Canucks' loss to Sharks

Mats Sundin scored his first goal as a Vancouver Canuck but it wasn't enough to slow the visiting San Jose Sharks, who got two third-period goals from Patrick Marleau to cement a 4-2 victory on Saturday night.

San Jose guts out 4-2 victory to remain atop NHL's Western Conference

The Mats Sundin love-in has officially begun in Vancouver.

Unfortunately for Canucks fans, they couldn't build on their double standing ovation for the big Swede following his first goal and point with his new team on Saturday night.

Sundin made it a 1-1 game late in the first period before San Jose's Patrick Marleau broke open a 2-2 tie, scoring twice in the third period for a 4-2 Sharks win.

Sundin's goal, a half slap shot from the faceoff circle past San Jose defenceman Rob Blake and into an open net on a 5-on-4 power play, is one Vancouver fans might see often from the six-foot-five centre.

"It's always nice," Sundin told Hockey Night in Canada when asked his thoughts on the standing ovations by the crowd of 18,630. "I knew it was going to be a big challenge to come back [midway through the season]. It's a challenge to get into the game when guys are three, four months into the season.

"Step by step. It got a little better tonight, I thought, than the previous two games."

The toughest adjustment for Sundin has been dealing with the intensity of the game.

The former Toronto Maple Leafs captain finished minus-1 with four shots and two penalties, and won eight of 13 faceoffs in 14 minutes 57 seconds of ice time.

Denied twice by Boucher

Early in the second period, Sundin was thwarted by Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher, who gloved his rebound attempt with Vancouver up a man.

With five seconds left in the frame, Boucher stuck out his left skate to deny Sundin off a faceoff.

"I think he's getting a little bit more comfortable," said HNIC analyst Kelly Hrudey of Sundin. "Keep in mind, this is the third game in four nights, which to me is a real benefit because you get thrown right back in there. Your hands get familiar with handling the puck, you understand the pressure and the speed of the game."

Mike Milbury of HNIC added that Sundin's presence is also a boon to the Canucks psychologically.

"I think it's maybe more important for the first month because all of a sudden they have a star player," he said. "The whole team is pumped up, more excited to come to the rink. There's a reason to hold on to hope when you have a guy like that."

Marleau put the Sharks ahead to stay midway through the third period when Dan Boyle's shot from the slot deflected off his skate and past Canucks backup netminder Curtis Sanford for a power-play goal. Officials ruled there was no kicking motion when the puck deflected into the Vancouver net off his skate.

Marleau added his second of the game and 23rd of the season at 17:54 to help San Jose improve its record atop the Western Conference to 31-5-5 for 67 points, four more than Detroit.

6 straight wins over Canucks

Mike Grier and Blake, on the power play, also scored for the Sharks in their sixth consecutive victory over the Canucks and second this season.

"I think the power play probably won us the game tonight," San Jose centre Joe Thornton told Scott Oake of HNIC. "We've still got a ways to go, but a win on the road is a win on the road."

San Jose returns home having won two of three games on its three-game road trip through Western Canada, including back-to-back victories away from HP Pavilion for the first time in nearly a month.

Boucher got the start in place of Evgeni Nabokov, and stopped 24 of 26 shots for his first win versus Vancouver since 2000 when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, a span of seven starts.

"Every time he [plays], he gets a shutout or a big win," said Thornton of Boucher, who has 89 NHL victories, including 16 by shutout. "He just gives us a chance to win. That's key going into [the playoffs in] April, May and June having two solid goaltenders, and we have that."

Daniel Sedin had the other goal for the 22-16-5 Canucks, who played catch-up all game and have lost two in a row to remain five points behind the Northwest-leading Calgary Flames.

After Grier gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in the opening two minutes of the second period, Vancouver defenceman Shane O'Brien broke down the wing after leaving the penalty box and feathered a pass to Sedin, who beat Boucher for his 21st goal of the season.

Blake was credited with the game's first goal at 17:37 of the first when his pass intended for Milan Michalek deflected off Canucks blue-liner Kevin Bieksa's left skate.