VANCOUVER – Dan Boyle believed one play would be the difference and Michal Handzus proved his teammate right.
Handzus scored the only goal of the shootout Monday night as the San Jose Sharks erased some bad memories with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Sharks had lost twice at home to their Western Conference rival earlier this season after Vancouver eliminated San Jose from last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs in five games.
“They’ve been close (games),” said Boyle. “They’ve just been on the winning side of it.”
The Canucks beat San Jose 3-2 in overtime last week and 3-2 in regulation in November.
“We keep talking about how one play, whether it’s early in the first (period) or late in the third,” said Boyle. “One play could be the difference-maker and tonight we had to take it to a shootout to get a winner.
“It’s a start. The West is so tight, every point counts so getting that extra point was big for us.”
Handzus, San Jose’s third man in the shootout, said he didn’t think too much as he swooped in on Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo.
“I just go in and look where (Luongo) is standing and then just shoot it or fake it,” Handzus said. “Pretty simple. It went in for me.”
Luongo said he thought Handzus slightly fanned on the shot after a couple of dekes.
“I wasn’t able to read it properly off the stick and it was able to find the corner there,” said the Canucks’ goaltender after a 33-save effort in a game where both netminders stood out.
Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler had hit the post on the previous shootout attempt and teammate Dan Hamhuis hit the far post late in the third period.
“It’s nice to have it go our way, that’s for sure,” said San Jose forward Ryane Clowe.
The Sharks (20-11-4) were coming off four straight road losses and a two-game losing skid.
The Canucks (24-13-3) lost their second straight game and third in their last six while missing an opportunity to tie Chicago for first in the West.
Benn Ferriero and Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead midway through the game.
Jannik Hansen, with his career-high 12th goal in the first period, and Cody Hodgson in the third, scored for the Canucks.
“We always have tough games against them,” said Hodgson who was robbed on a breakaway by goalie Antti Niemi, who also stopped his backhand try in the shootout.
“It’s always within a goal. We knew that coming in what kind of game we were going to play. We just would have liked to be on the other end of it.”
San Jose, which has games in hand on many conference rivals, took a 2-1 lead into the third period after outshooting the Canucks 17-7 in the middle frame.
Ferriero scored after a penalty kill and Marleau backhanded in a rebound for his 14th goal of the season and third in six games.
The Sharks gave the league’s top power play six chances but only Hodgson cashed in with the man advantage to tie the game with 8:25 remaining in the third period.
“That’s a point where you can gain momentum or lose it and I think we gained a little bit back,” Marleau said of five kills, including a 5-on-3 advantage for one minute nine seconds.
While leading the league in power-play conversions, the Canucks have scored only twice in 17 chances during the last seven games.
“Our execution may be a tad off and when you’re a tad off, with the quality of goaltending and quality of penalty killing in this league it’s challenging,” said coach Alain Vigneault.
“These guys have my total confidence that we’re going to get back to the level we expect on the power play.”
NOTES: Forward Chris Higgins returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing three games with an infected hand … an infected foot kept him out of two games in December … Canuck winger David Booth is back on skates after injuring his knee on Dec. 6 … he is expected to join the team for a four-game road trip beginning Saturday against Boston.