VANCOUVER – Watching the San Jose Sharks melt down in Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference final brought back some old memories for the Vancouver Canucks.
Been there. Done that. Don’t want to do it again.
The Canucks refused to be drawn into retaliation penalties and didn’t let the Sharks’ rough-house tactics distract them in a 7-3 victory. The Canucks scored four third-period goals, two of them on power plays.
“You learn from your experiences,” goaltender Roberto Luongo said Thursday as the Canucks boarded an airplane to San Jose.
“We have been on that side of the story before and it hasn’t worked out that well for us. You learn from the past. We want to keep our eyes on the prize. If that includes taking a punch in the face, why not?”
Vancouver takes a 2-0 lead into Game 3 Friday night at the HP Pavilion. Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday afternoon.
The Canucks have dominated the Sharks for most of the first two games. Vancouver has played physical, didn’t get rattled when the Sharks scored first, and took advantage of San Jose mistakes.
Raffi Torres said it hasn’t been as easy as it looks. And it won’t get any easier at the Shark Tank.
“Going to San Jose, it’s a tough place to play,” said Torres, his face showing the cuts and bruises of a long playoff run. “It’s a loud building.
“I’m sure the last thing they are going to do is let us come in there and do what we do. They will be ready to go.”
CBC’s broadcast of Game 2 of the series drew an of audience of 3.01 million.
It wasn’t too long ago the Canucks’ composure and mental toughness was as fragile as fine china.
A cheap shot, like when San Jose’s Ben Eager drove Daniel Sedin head-first into the boards Wednesday night, might have blown Vancouver’s cool. They would have started yapping at the officials and taken bad penalties.
“We learned our lessons the hard way,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “At the time it really cost us.
“We talked about it a lot before the playoffs. We have been very good all season being disciplined and even-keeled, staying away from stuff after the whistle.”
The Canucks were undisciplined and lost their composure the last two years in playoff losses to Chicago.
Sedin, the NHL’s scoring leader and an MVP finalist, said this year’s team has more talent, which raises the confidence level.
“You get frustrated when you feel their team is better than your team,” said Sedin, who had a cut under his nose as a reminder of the Eager hit. “This year we have a better team. That’s the bottom line.”
Bieksa said there are nights when the Canucks new resolve is put to the test.
“It’s still a work in process,” he said. “I don’t think we have perfected it yet.
“It’s nice we’re not the team doing that. I just shows you can take advantage of that. When they start acting like that we are going to capitalize.”
While most of the Canuck players seemed to have put the previous game behind them, coach Alain Vigneault was still steamed over Eager’s hit on Sedin. That resulted in a minor penalty.
“Obviously he’s on the ice to try and hurt people,” said Vigneault. “He ran Danny from the back, one of the NHL’s potential MVPs. Their coach goes out and says that’s the way we want them to play.
“I just hope nothing serious is going to happen on the ice. Otherwise there will be some serious consequences to that. ”
He also took exception to Eager calling Bieksa “a phoney” for fighting San Jose’s Patrick Marleau.
“Last year we had (Dary) Hordichuk ask him I don’t know how many times to fight and he always turned him down,” said Vigneault.
“I think (Rick) Rypien is 40 or 45 pounds lighter than him and offered him, I don’t know on how many occasions, to fight and he turned him down. It is what it is.”
The Canucks will play the rest of the series without forward Mikael Samuelsson, who underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair his adductor tendon and sports hernia.
“There were no other options,” said Vigneault. “He hurt himself real bad. We had to go in there and get it fixed.”
Samuelsson, the only Canuck with a Stanley Cup ring, suffered the injury in a May 7 game against Nashville. The former Detroit Red Wing had a goal and two assists in 11 playoff games.
The Canucks have also been without third-line centre Manny Malhotra who suffered a serious eye injury in March.
San Jose coach Todd McLellan said his team must do a better job of keeping its composure in Game 3.
“We made far too many trips to the penalty box,” said McLellan. “That’s often a result of frustration. It catches up with you.”
The Sharks are now 0-6 in conference final games. They were swept in four games by Chicago last year.
Ryane Clowe has heard critics say San Jose is a team that can’t get it done in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to do something to prove them wrong, or shut them up a little bit,” said Clowe.
“It’s in our hands.”
The series has the potential to get mean, especially if Vancouver takes a big lead in either game in San Jose.
“We’re not looking to be nasty,” said Bieksa. “We go out, we play hard. If the other team wants to retaliate or take runs at us, we take advantage of it on the power play.
“We are focused on Game 3. It is by far the biggest game of the series.”