Where the Sharks struggled on the road during the season, they excelled on Wednesday night.
And because San Jose is the only team to win a road game this early in the Stanley Cup playoff season, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in an early hole.
Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle scored a tiebreaking goal at 9:17 of the third period as San Jose posted a 3-1 comeback win over Vancouver in Game 1 of a Western Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
"It's a grinding series every time we play, whether it's a playoff series, regular season or even an exhibition game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Two teams are pretty evenly matched. A lot of board work, a lot of work down low. It will be a tired group of players that will need the rest."
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Vancouver on Friday night.
"I thought there was some good moments sticking with the way we want to play, getting pucks behind their defense and wear them down," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "But I know our top guys can play better than we did tonight."
Boyle broke a 1-1 tie when he crept down from his spot on the blue line and was unmarked to the right of the slot just 12 feet from the goal. Tommy Wingles won a puck battle behind the net to feed Joe Pavelski, who put a long backhand shot on goal that Wingles kept alive while battling Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. Boyle slammed home for the go-ahead goal to make it 2-1.
"The puck found me there," Boyle said. "On occasions the puck bounces the other way, but it came right to me with an open net. I'm pretty happy about that."
Patrick Marleau scored at 14:37 of the third to make it 3-1. It was his 53rd career playoff goal.
"That third goal was huge; it gave us some breathing room," Boyle said.
"Those are playoff-type goals where you get in on the forecheck, create a turnover, get a second or third chance," McLellan added. "We had some of those early in the game and didn't find a way to get one past Louie. Perseverance paid off and we got them late in the game."
Each team scored a second-period goal to remain tied 1-1 after a hard-hitting, tight-checking opening 40 minutes.
Vancouver struck first 12:26 into the middle period at even strength on a goal-mouth scramble that was initially credited to right wing Jannik Hansen but later changed to defenseman Kevin Bieksa. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi stopped an initial shot by Bieksa but couldn't cover the rebound.
"We felt we were the better team in the first and they were the better team in the second," Boyle said. "We kept our composure all night. We weren't happy with their first goal, but we kept our head down and worked to win a playoff game."
The Sharks got even on the power play as Logan Couture beat Luongo at 16:35 with a wrist shot just left of the slot.
"Boyle made a great look to me, found me up there," Couture said. "I was able to turn my body around to get everything behind it. There's less space on his blocker, and I was able to find it."
Couture drew the minor, a roughing call on Vancouver forward Zack Kassian at 16:00. Boyle supplied a pass from the bottom of the right circle to pick up the primary assist on Couture's 13th career playoff goal.
"Offensively tonight there wasn't a lot of room on the ice. They didn't generate a lot 5-on-5; neither did we. That's an area we can be better," Vigneault said. "We can be better on our penalty kill and faceoffs."
The Sharks lost the services of second-line right wing Martin Havlat early in the first period due to an undisclosed injury. Havlat was injured on his fifth shift and did not return.
"We had to juggle lines a lot. Fatigue started to set in for a few of our players," McLellan said. "We had to keep our shifts short, and we won some faceoffs that allowed us to get some fresh people on the ice."
San Jose had two first-period power plays, including a two-minute advantage just 2:36 after the opening faceoff that produced seven shots but no goals. The Canucks failed to convert on two second-period power plays, totaling three shots in four minutes.
The Sharks held a 15-9 advantage in shots in the first period while the Canucks dominated the second period in shots, 14-6.
"We didn't generate a lot," Vigneault said. "We have to find a way to be better, and that's what we're going to work on over the next 24 hours before the next game."
NOTES: Canucks forward Ryan Kesler played in Game 1 after not participating in the morning skate. Vigneault joked earlier in the day, "We've got him locked in the back. We're feeding him raw meat. The beast will be ready tonight." ... Of the decision to start longtime Canuck and current backup Luongo in goal over Cory Schneider, Vigneault said, "He's just not healthy enough right now." Schneider missed the last two games of the season and didn't even dress Wednesday. ... The Sharks were without veteran center Scott Gomez and defenseman Jason Demers, both nursing undisclosed injuries. Gomez missed the final two games of the season after sustaining an open-ice hit by Eric Cole of Dallas. Demers missed the final four games. James Sheppard played in place of Gomez. Scott Hannan, a native of nearby Richmond, subbed for Demers.