VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo didn’t get the last laugh after all.
Dan Boyle’s third-period goal lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the first game of their Western Conference quarter-final series Wednesday night.
The loss spoiled a strong effort from Luongo, after he drew the start because Cory Schneider did not recover in time from an undisclosed injury. The start added yet another twist to Luongo’s strange season after he was not traded last summer as expected.
But just when it looked things might start to go his way, the Sharks produced a plot line they liked better, overcoming a 1-0 second-period deficit.
Boyle put the Sharks ahead 2-1 at 9:17 of the third as diminutive Canucks forward Derek Roy tried to push burly San Jose forward Tommy Wingels off the puck while they were on Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo’s doorstep and two other Sharks pressured the net. Wingels sent the puck out to the high slot area where Boyle came in from the point and fired it home.
“I got sandwiched between two guys in the crease and I couldn’t get loose,” said Luongo. “I’m not quite sure what happened, but the puck squirted out (and) it was in the net.”
Boyle and Logan Couture both finished with a goal and an assist. Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks.
Vancouver outshot San Jose 30-28.
San Jose converted one of four power-play chances while the Canucks were blanked on two.
“Louie played great early on,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “He made some great saves on the first power play.”
“I don’t think there was a lack of effort,” said Luongo. “We saw the type of goals that were scored tonight. It was around the crease, banging and hacking away. … That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Kevin Bieksa scored for the Canucks before a disappointed white-towel-waving sellout crowd of 18,910 at Rogers Arena.
This marks the second time the Canucks and Sharks have met in the playoffs. Vancouver ousted San Jose in five games in the Western Conference finals in 2010-11.
The Sharks won all three regular-season meetings between the teams. The Canucks did not win a playoff game at home last spring, and have now lost five straight post-season games at Rogers Arena dating to the seventh game of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup finals.
“It’s the type of series where it’s going to be tight-checking physical games, and we’re going to have to find ways to get it done,” said Luongo.
The former No. 1 made a number of excellent saves early as the Sharks outshot the Canucks 6-1 in the first 4:06 of the game. The Vancouver goaltender got the crowd roaring as he stopped Patrick Marleau on a one-timer from the slot during a power play.
He also stretched across his crease to stop a Martin Havlat shot off a Marleau rebound.
Moments later, after the game was barely four minutes old, Luongo gloved a Joe Thornton shot from the wing while the Sharks were still enjoying their power play.
“I felt pretty good in the first,” said Luongo, who helped the Canucks kill two first-period power plays. “It gave me a good rhythm for the rest of the game. But, obviously, when you end up losing them, you always want to find a way to do more.”
Vancouver’s best chance in the first came on a Roy one-timer that Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi appeared to get a piece of before it hit the crossbar.
Bieksa got credit for Vancouver’s first goal, at 12:26 of the second period, after former Canuck Raffi Torri inadvertently stuffed the puck into his own net during a scramble.
The goal ignited Vancouver’s offence. Shortly afterwards, Daniel Sedin put a shot off the crossbar from a sharp angle.
But Couture forged a 1-1 tie on a power play just over four minutes later as he put a shot from the point over Luongo’s blocker. Couture reaped revenge after Vancouver winger Zack Kassian took a needless roughing penalty for slamming the Shark into the boards and punching him in the head behind the play.
“It’s always nice when the penalty is taken on you,” said Couture. “Kassian hit me high. The ref made a good call.”
The Canucks outshot the Sharks 14-6 in the second period.
After Boyle scored the winner, Marleau increased San Jose’s advantage to 3-1 at 14:37 of the third as he put in Couture’s pass from behind the net. The shot went in off Bieksa’s skate as he slid to block the puck.
“Luongo gave us a chance,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He was really good in the first period, got a little bit unlucky there in the third.
“But that’s part of the game, and if you want breaks and you want to score, you gotta work hard—and we need to find another level.”
Notes: Havlat left the game after the first period. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he had “no update” on him. … All fans received white towels on their seats before the game. … Canucks rookie defenceman Frank Corrado, 20, played his first NHL playoff game—only nine days after playing his first regular-season game. The Woodbridge, Ont., native has also played with Sudbury and Kitchener of the OHL and the AHL’s Chicago Wolves this season. … Rookie Joe Cannata, called up recently from the Wolves, dressed as Luongo’s backup. … Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler played after missing his club’s morning skate for unexplained reasons.