VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks were just over a minute away from celebrating a hard-earned victory Thursday.
They were instead left to ponder what went wrong against an opponent that almost always has their number.
Tomas Hertl tied the score on a broken play with 65 seconds left in regulation and Dan Boyle won it on the power play at 2:38 of overtime as the San Jose Sharks stormed back to stun the Canucks 2-1.
Vancouver had killed 28 straight power plays until Boyle beat Roberto Luongo with a shot that needed video review.
“It sucks,” said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who scored his first of the season for Vancouver. “Sometimes you’re on the wrong end of these kind of games.
“Getting a point is a positive against the top teams but two points was right there. It’s early in the season. You don’t want to get too down on yourself, but we deserved those two points.”
The Sharks have now won 10 of their last 11 against the Canucks.
Vancouver led late in the third period until Boyle’s flubbed shot from the point found its way to Hertl at the side of the goal. The Czech teenager buried his chance past a helpless Luongo for his 11th of the season, which leads all rookies.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was then whistled for hooking in overtime and the Sharks’ power play clicked.
“We played a great game. I thought they got a really lucky break on their tying goal and they get a power play in OT and that’s it,” said Luongo, who finished with 28 saves. “That’s how close the NHL is. We’re a minute away from playing, what I thought was a really great game, and all of a sudden it turns into a loss.”
Antti Niemi made 34 saves for the Sharks (12-2-5), who came in having dropped five of their last six and were outplayed for long stretches on Thursday.
“This becomes the game you hear hockey people talk about the hockey gods, where it starts to even out,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “We weren’t the better team tonight and we have been on the other end of that where we were the better team and found a way not to win it. Tonight we found a way to come back.”
In a scheduling quirk, Thursday’s game was the final regular-season meeting between the Canucks (11-7-3) and Sharks in 2013-14, with San Jose winning three and losing one.
“It’s a kick in the teeth to lose it but looking at the big picture and some of the things we did against a pretty good hockey club, that’s what we are going to take out of this,” said Canucks coach John Tortorella. “We played a really good game right on through.”
Bieksa broke the scoreless tie on the power play at 13:40 of the second period when his shot from the point found its way through traffic past Niemi. Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows missed a glorious chance moments earlier before Henrik Sedin fed Bieksa for the one-timer.
The goal snapped a 2-for-28 drought for Vancouver with the man advantage and was just the Canucks’ third power-play goal at Rogers Arena all season.
Niemi kept the Canucks from doubling their lead with a big stop on Ryan Kesler with five minutes to go in the period.
Canucks forward Chris Higgins had a chance off the rush early in the third that Niemi was equal to before the Sharks, who had just 17 shots through two periods, started to come on.
After Henrik Sedin missed a wide-open net off a feed from his brother Daniel Sedin, Luongo made a big glove save on San Jose forward James Sheppard with under eight minutes to go.
“We’re trying to find ways,” said Boyle. “That’s what it’s all about and in this league with the extra points they are giving now it’s just going to come down to the end of the year and you never know which extra point is going to solidify your playoff position or have you on the outside.”
The Canucks returned home Thursday after a 1-2-1 road trip against Pacific Division rivals, with the only victory coming in 4-2 decision over the Sharks on Nov. 7.
Playing their first home game since a 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 2, the Canucks had a couple of early chances in a first period that was short on action.
Niemi stopped Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev on a chance in the high slot five minutes in before shooting out his left pad to stop Mike Santorelli on the doorstep a few moments later.
Vancouver’s No. 1-ranked penalty kill was put to the test midway through the period when defenceman Alexander Edler was whistled for interference. The Sharks moved the puck around to Joe Thornton, but the San Jose captain’s heavy shot from the top of the faceoff circle rang off the crossbar behind Luongo and stayed out.
“You’re not going to win every game you play great and sometimes you don’t deserve to win and you’re going to win,” said Luongo. “That’s the way the NHL is. I think the main thing is we can’t put our heads down.”
Notes: The Canucks’ power play entered the night ranked 28th overall. … NHL legend Gordie Howe was in attendance and got an ovation midway through the second period. … Vancouver’s victory in San Jose last week snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Sharks dating back to last season. … The Sharks swept the Canucks four straight in the first round of last season’s playoffs, while Vancouver got the better of San Jose in five games in the 2011 Western Conference final. … Vancouver left-winger David Booth returned to the lineup after completing a conditioning assignment in the American Hockey League. … The Sharks are in action Friday night against the Oilers in Edmonton. … The Canucks continue their season-high six-game homestand Sunday against the visiting Dallas Stars.