Canucks open series with a win

Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo loses his stick as he clears the puck away from San Jose Sharks'...

Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo loses his stick as he clears the puck away from San Jose Sharks' Scott Nichol. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 PM ET

The problem hasn't been first games of playoff series for the Vancouver Canucks. It's been last games.

And while the first game of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks here Sunday night wasn't ho-hum for the Canucks for the longest time there, in the end it was another Game 1 win.

Since Alain Vigneault took over as head coach, the Canucks now have an 8-1 win-loss record in Game 1’s of Stanley Cup playoff series – 7-0 in series which started here.

Throughout their 40 years of failure, the Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup but they've been 13-3 in playoff series opening at home.

In the end Vancouver poured 13 shots on Antti Niemi – a goaltender with a six series winning streak who had only given up five goals in the previous 109 shots – to score two unanswered third period goals and win 3-2.

For the longest time there, it looked like it was going to be Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo who would be back on the hot seat here.

Luongo, who had won both series opening games with shutouts this year, blanking the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 and the Nashville Predators 1-0, gave the Sharks the 1-0 lead with the freeze frame play of the game.

The Sharks appeared to test Luongo to find out if he was still leaking goals from bad angles that he'd shown in previous series, but that ghastly goal in question came from the worst angle of all – behind the net.

And it was Luongo who shot it!

Or passed it.

Whatever he did with it, he put the puck out from behind to Joe Thornton who calmly made the deposit into the vacated net at 18:47 of the first period.

The ghastly give-away by Luongo low-lighted an otherwise fun opening period of play between the two teams which put 21 shots on goal, a total which would grow to 67 with 38 of them on Niemi by the end of the night.

Despite the Canucks having the better chances in the opening period, the first goal which has been so important this Stanley season, went in the other net – San Jose going 6-2 when scoring first and Vancouver 2-3 when giving up the first goal going into the game.

But it was Niemi, playing the puck up the wall, who started the chain of events which resulted in Maxim Lapierre scoring the 1-1 equalizer at 1:49 of the second period.

It was a deflected puck, in front of Luongo, by Patrick Marleau on a power play which went in over the shoulder of Canada's Olympic gold medal-winning netminder to restore the one-goal lead six minutes later.

The Canucks, however, showed something in the third period which has often been missing.

They put some will into their game and Kevin Bieksa finally made something happen when he stepped in from the point to wire one to draw Vancouver even.

And then the missing-in-action Henrik Sedin went forehand to backhand across the crease on a power play provided by Dany Heatley just over a minute later to give the Canucks their first lead of the game.

This game they made it hold.

Game 1, as always, Canucks.


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