VANCOUVER, B.C. – Mats Sundin scored his first goal as a Vancouver Canuck, but the San Jose Sharks were on the right side of two NHL replays Saturday night.
The game was tied late in the second period when Shark goalie Brian Boucher made a 4-2 win possible by diving in front of Kyle Wellwood’s attempt to score on a rebound.
Boucher said he thought the puck was halfway across the line when he covered it with his glove, meaning any replay would not show conclusive evidence of a goal.
And Patrick Marleau’s power-play winner stood after officials ruled there was no kicking motion when the puck deflected into the Canuck net off his skate.
“When it gets out of your hands, you never know,” said Boucher who turned aside 24 Vancouver shots.
“It was a big break for us. We got through two periods but we weren’t happy with the way we played. We knew we could do a better job and we had 20 minutes to do that.”
Sanford thought Marleau kicked at the puck during wild action around his net.
“But the puck had already found it’s way between my pads before you could see the kicking motion so I think that was the determining factor,” he said.
Marleau took over in the third period with the winner and a backhand insurance goal to give him five over the last four games and 23 for the season.
“I had my foot turned up when it hit me, so that was the deciding factor,” Marleau said of his decisive goal. “When it happens like that, you hope it goes in.”
Sundin, who had no shots on goal and no points in his first two games, drew a prolonged, loud standing ovation when he blasted a puck behind Boucher to give Vancouver a 1-1 tie with 7.6 seconds remaining in the first period.
It was the first shot on goal this season for the former Toronto Maple Leaf captain who signed a pro-rated US$8.26 million deal on Dec. 18 to become Vancouver’s biggest free-agent acquisition.
But he was in the penalty box for the second straight night when the winning goal was scored.
“It was a two-on-one, a broken play and my stick went up,” Sundin said of the high-sticking call.
“I’m not going to lose sleep over that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it goes in hockey.”
San Jose coach Todd McLelland said Marleau stepped up for the second straight night as his club improved to 31-5-5 at the halfway point of the season to hold a one-point lead over Boston for the NHL’s best record.
“I was very happy to see him elevate his game in the third period. He’s done that two nights in a row (with two goals against Edmonton) and as a result we win games.”
Rob Blake, on another power play where the puck deflected in off a defender’s skate, and Mike Grier, with a drive that knuckleballed behind Sanford, also counted for the Sharks who limited Vancouver to two shots in the final period.
San Jose had won only two of their previous seven road games despite a commanding lead atop the Pacific Division and being the Western Conference leaders.
The Canucks, humbled 5-0 in San Jose on Dec. 23, got their second goal from Daniel Sedin but lost their fourth straight at home to drop to 22-17-5.
They were beaten by the best team in the Western Conference after losing to St. Louis, the worst club in the West.
Coach Alain Vigneault said his club had a better effort for two periods but couldn’t beat Boucher on good scoring chances.
” We out-chanced them, I thought we outplayed them, and in the third there wasn’t a lot of room on the ice and we made a few mistakes and they made us pay for them,” Vigneault said. “Our inability to make them pay those first two periods was the key factor in this game.”
Notes: Sanford blanked the Sharks with 16 saves when he relieved rookie goalie Cory Schneider 21 minutes and five goals into in Vancouver’s earlier loss to San Jose. … The Sharks play seven of their next eight games at home. … With checking centre Ryan Johnson back in the lineup, the Canucks reassigned winger Jason Jaffray to the AHL Manitoba Moose. … Daniel Sedin reached the 20-goal plateau for the fourth consecutive season.