VANCOUVER – After sometimes getting lost on the road during the regular season the San Jose Sharks found a winning path in their first playoff game.
The Sharks gained some momentum with a strong first-period power play, then scored three unanswered goals for a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night. The victory gives the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series.
“The road hasn’t been too friendly to us all year,” said Dan Boyle, who had a goal and an assist for the Sharks. “We played a very good road game.
“We weren’t too cute, we weren’t too fancy. We did what we had to do.”
The Sharks were killers at home this season, losing just twice in regulation time. On the road the Sharks were minnows, managing just eight wins. In a first-round series that everyone expects to be close, winning the opening game on the road is a bonus.
“To come in here and win Game 1 is huge,” said captain Joe Thornton. “Hopefully we can grab some confidence on the road here on out.”
Boyle broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period during a wild scramble in front of the Canuck net. Four Canucks converged on centre Tommy Wingels but the puck squirted out to a wide-open Boyle who put a shot past goaltender Roberto Luongo.
“The puck found me there,” said Boyle, who also assisted on Logan Couture’s power-play goal.
“It could have gone any direction, off their forward’s skate. It found its way through. I had pretty much an open net. The hockey gods were with me on that one.”
The Sharks dominated the first period, outshooting Vancouver 15-9. Luongo, who started for the injured Cory Schneider, made some brilliant saves on a San Jose power play to keep his team in the game.
Boyle said the Sharks maintained their patience and didn’t let Luongo get into their heads.
“That’s part of playoff hockey,” he said. “You can’t get frustrated.”
Even though they didn’t score, San Jose coach Todd McLellan said the early power play jump-started his team.
“I thought the power play early gave us some momentum,” said McLellan. “It was sharp. It got us going and got us into the series.
“Even later in the game, when we needed that goal, we got the power play. That was a big part of it.”
Couture scored after Vancouver’s Zack Kassian got called for a needless roughing penalty. He fired a rocket past Luongo.
“He left some space on the short side,” said Couture. “I put it where I wanted to.”
McLellan praised Couture as one of the best Sharks.
“Logan elevated his play again,” said McLellan. “He played very good in all three zones.
“He was a catalyst on the power play. He was very good on the penalty kill. It sounds like we are talking about a hell of a player, and that’s what he is.”
A first period injury to forward Martin Halt forced the Sharks to mix and match lines.
“We had to juggle lines a lot,” said McLellan. “I thought fatigue started to set in with a few of our players.
“We kept our shifts really short and we won some faceoffs, which allowed us to get fresh people on the ice.”
Thornton said it might not have been the prettiest win, but it showed what the Sharks must do if they hope to take the series.
“We just stayed calm and kept going,” he said. “We have some goal scorers that can finish. They did that tonight.
“It was a good effort to stay relaxed and wait for chances.”
Patrick Marleau scored San Jose’s other goal. Defenceman Kevin Bieksa scored for Vancouver.
Game 2 will be played Friday.