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Soaring Sharks jump to 3-0 series lead

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks have never swept an opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs. On Tuesday night, they will have that opportunity.

Joe Pavelsi and Logan Couture scored two goals each, and Patrick Marleau added his third in three games as the Sharks put the Vancouver Canucks on the brink of elimination with a 5-2 win Sunday night.

San Jose, which blitzed the visitors with three goals in a 2:27 span of the early third period, took a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinal series. Game 4 of the best-of-seven set is Tuesday, and the Sharks will be looking to move into second round for the first time in three postseasons.

"I'll remind them in the morning that the last time we were in this position it took us seven games," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said, referring to beating Detroit two years ago in seven games after jumping to a 3-0 series lead. "There's a lot of hockey left in this series."

Couture added, "They're going to bring everything they have; their season is on the line. We expect that, and we'll be prepared for that."

The Sharks put Game 3 away with an early third-period explosion.

At 1:40 of the final period, Couture scored on an innocent looking wrist shot from the left boards that caught Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider deep in his net and close to the near post. The goal put San Jose ahead 3-1.

Nine seconds later, the Sharks struck again. Marleau beat Schneider between the pads after cutting to the slot and shooting off-balance.

Henrik Sedin high-sticked Couture in the faceoff circle, and Couture made the Canucks pay with a power-play goal just 21 seconds into the 5-on-4. The Sharks converted three of their first five power-play opportunities.

Couture's second goal of the game, at 4:07, chased Schneider in favor of Roberto Luongo, who started and lost the first two games of the series in Vancouver. Couture added two assists for a four-point night.

"Going into the third they had a power play we had to kill. We were almost there, and I'm not happy how we reacted after that," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.

Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis scored at 13:12 of the third period.

The teams traded second-period goals to allow the hosts to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.

"It was a pretty even game again early," McLellan said. "Probably the difference later was being on the power play for almost 13 minutes. They're taxing minutes when you're on the penalty kill.

"We punished them on the power play, so that's probably the difference that got us going."

Pavelski's second goal of the game came 7:20 into the middle session. Defenseman Scott Hannan's hard dump caromed behind the net to Tommy Wingels on the right boards. The forward sent a drive that Pavelski redirected through the pads of Schneider after beating defenseman Kevin Bieksa to the goal crease.

"We scored on a few shots maybe you don't always, but we got traffic (in front of the goal) and were in the right positions," Pavelski said.

Vancouver broke through just past the midway point as the Sedin twins finally produced. The Canucks capped a 2-on-2 rush as Alex Burrows chipped Henrik Sedin's pass between the circles over Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who was late moving laterally at 11:07.

The Sharks scored the only goal of the first period, converting on a 5-on-3 power play late in the period.

With Canucks forward Dale Weise off for roughing Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Hamhuis compounded Vancouver's short-handed problem by slashing Joe Thornton 24 seconds into the first minor. It took the Sharks time to get organized with entry into the zone, but once set up, a tic-tac-toe passing play was capped by Pavelski at 14:08 just to the right of Schneider.

Niemi finished with 28 saves. Schneider stopped 23 of the 28 shots he faced, while Luongo made 10 saves without allowing a goal.

"I would say it's tougher to score in the playoffs, but I believe we have the skill to score the right amount of goals," Vigneault said. "Obviously we didn't prove it tonight, or prove it in the two games prior to that."

NOTES: Schneider appeared for the first time in the series. He also missed the final two games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Before the injury, Schneider was 11-4-1, allowed more than two goals just three times and recorded four shutouts in a 16-game span. ... Veteran Scott Gomez made his series debut for the Sharks, opening as the center on the team's fourth line. Gomez was appearing in his 141st career playoff game. ... With the return of one injured player apiece, the Sharks and Canucks each still have two players out. San Jose is missing forward Martin Havlat (groin) and defenseman Jason Demers (sprained ankle). Vancouver's forward David Booth (left ankle) and defenseman Chris Tanev (leg) are also sidelined The return date for all four is indefinite. ... Forward Tim Kennedy and rookie defenseman Matt Tennyson were San Jose's healthy scratches. ... Tom Sestito replaced Andrew Ebbett at left wing on Vancouver's fourth line.

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