SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Sami Salo scored twice and Ryan Kesler added a goal as the Vancouver Canucks capitalized on three two-man advantages in the second period to beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 Sunday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Canucks scored the three goals in a span of 1:55, needing only 37 seconds on the three 5-on-3 situations to beat Antti Niemi three times.
Alexandre Burrows added an even-strength goal in the third period as the Canucks moved to the brink of reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994. Henrik Sedin had a franchise playoff-record four assists, twin brother Daniel had three, and Roberto Luongo made 33 saves.
Vancouver scored four goals despite recording only 13 shots in the game and just seven after the first period.
Andrew Desjardins and Ryane Clowe had third-period goals for the Sharks, who failed to capitalize on five early power-play chances and fell to 1-6 at home in the conference finals in franchise history. San Jose will need to win Game 5 in Vancouver on Tuesday night to extend the series and get another chance in the Shark Tank.
In a series dominated by special teams play, this game was no different with nearly 15 of the first 33 minutes being spent with a team on the power play.
That’s where the Canucks dominated in a turnabout from their 4-3 loss in Game 3. They allowed three power-play goals in that game and failed to convert during 1:55 of 5-on-3 time in the second period.
The Canucks clearly solved both of those issues before Game 4 despite being without injured defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome. First, they killed off five straight minor penalties to open the game as they spent 10:00 of the first 24:06 short-handed.
The Sharks, who converted their first five power-play chances this series, struggled to set up in the offensive zone with the man advantage on Sunday. When they did get into the Vancouver end, Luongo made eight saves on the five power plays and gave San Jose few chances at rebounds.
The Canucks’ frustration at the early spate of penalties turned midway through the second period when the Sharks were called for four in a span of 2:46 to lead to the scoring outburst.
With Dany Heatley already in the box for high-sticking, Torrey Mitchell got called for hooking Daniel Sedin to give Vancouver its first two-man advantage. The Canucks took just 10 seconds to capitalize with Kesler beating Niemi with a one-timer from the circle off a pass from Salo.
Just 1:23 later, the Sharks got caught with too many men on the ice, giving Vancouver its second two-man advantage. This time, it took the Canucks 16 seconds to score when Salo took a pass from Henrik Sedin and blasted it past Niemi from just inside the blue line.
After the ensuing faceoff, San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray hit the puck over the glass for a delay of game call. Ten seconds later, Salo capped the outburst with a big shot from between the circles as the Canucks ended up scoring on three of their four shots in the second period.
The rare afternoon start did little to dampen the enthusiasm from the normally boisterous Sharks fans or the sizable contingent of Canucks fans who made the trip to San Jose.
The Sharks were unable to give their fans an early goal to cheer about. The best scoring chance during those 10 minutes of power play-filled action came for the Canucks, but Mason Raymond was stopped in close twice by Niemi at the end of a 2-on-1 with Jannik Hansen.
Notes: The three goals were the fastest in the playoffs for the Canucks, beating the previous mark of 2:18 against Calgary in 1989. … Vancouver scored one 5-on-3 goal all regular season. … Sharks captain Joe Thornton left in the third period after being hit into the boards by Raffi Torres.