Before Game 3 had reached the 10-minute mark of the first period, the San Jose Sharks power play had advanced to 5-for-5 in the series and 2-for-2 in the game. For the first time in the series, they held a two-goal lead on the Vancouver Canucks.
If you're a Canucks fan, that's about the nicest possible way someone can describe the way your team started the game. 'Twas ugly, friends.
By the time that first period finished, the Shark-infested waters at HP Pavillion ran deep red. The Sharks were up 3-0 on the heels of two Patrick Marleau(notes) goals and the shots were 16-8 in favor of San Jose (they were up 15-1 at one point).
What was most surprising from a Canucks team that appeared to be ready to take the next step was that they seemed to assume things would carry over from the third period of Game 2, where they owned a frustrated Sharks team.
Unbeknownst to them, their work wasn't nearly done as the Sharks grasped the gravity of the moment and were more than ready to take the play in another direction.
Vancouver did eventually make a quality push in the third where they outscored the Sharks 3-1 (which, ridiculously, puts them ahead in third periods nine goals to two), but it never really felt like they could climb out of the hole they dug for themselves by being completely unable to match San Jose's initial storm. I've had coaches say you can't win or lose a game in the first period, but it felt like this game contradicted that.
For San Jose, that could be the bright spot they can take away from this game. The saves never seemed to make Niemi flinch, a sign of solid positional goaltending which wasn't exactly his forte over the first two games. The guy who makes the diving save on SportsCenter? Most goaltenders consider that guy to have been out of position, beat and lucky. Niemi's night seemed comfortable, exactly what the Sharks were hoping to see.
The Canucks' attempt at a comeback was aided by a five-minute major taken by Jamie McGinn(notes) on Aaron Rome(notes), where he only took about four strides too many and hit a guy from a questionable angle — beyond that, little felt self-created. The team that showed up was the one Alain Vigneault dreads, never showing the force we saw in the first two games. Even the Kevin Bieksa(notes) power play goal with just under four minutes almost felt harmless.
And that was as close as they'd come.
In general, the entire game seemed to be a role reversal: the Canucks took five more penalties than the Sharks despite all the rhetoric about learning to stay composed when it counts. The Sharks' top forwards produced, while the Canucks' big dogs seemed to shy away. For Sharks fans, it felt like this series just took on new life.
And really, it has.
With a max of four games left (two in each barn) and the Sharks showing that they may just have learned something about playoff intensity over their past failures, this series may have just begun.
Todd McLellan pointed out after last game that a series doesn't start until someone loses at home, and he's right.
Hockey fans just can't wait to see this one get under way.