VANCOUVER – Had he not scored the overtime winner against the Canucks on Friday night, Sharks forward Raffi Torres might have had nightmarish visions of Roberto Luongo’s glove floating through his cranium.
The Canucks’ goaltender made an unbelievable stop on Torres in the second period with the Sharks up 1-0, when he dove across the crease to catch Torres’ attempt at an open net in the best save of the series so far.
In overtime, though, Torres took a pass from Brent Burns and easily found the back of the net after Burns completely froze Luongo and defenseman Kevin Bieksa on a two-on-one rush, to give the Sharks a commanding 2-0 series lead. San Jose won, 3-2.
“They teach you as a young kid to go to the net with your stick on the ice and head down. [Burns] made a great play,” Torres said.
Did he have any lingering thoughts about the earlier save, or was it over and done with after it happened?
“It’s done with. I look at it as a good scoring opportunity. … They’re not all going to go in. [Luongo] had a great game tonight, and fortunately we came out on top.”
The Sharks didn’t play a perfect game, including taking an 0-for-5 on the power play, but managed to tie it late in regulation on Patrick Marleau’s second goal in as many games. The winger found his own rebound sitting behind Luongo with less than a minute to go, giving Torres the chance to play hero.
“We showed a lot of character and a lot of guts to come back,” Dan Boyle said. “A win is a win. It wasn’t pretty, and we were obviously on our heels after we had the one goal lead a little bit too much, but a win is a win.”
Ryan Kesler’s dominant performance went to waste after the Canucks’ centerman dished out some huge hits, and scored a pair of third period goals as Vancouver made a push to even the series.
After a bad tripping penalty to Andrew Desjardins put Vancouver on the power play, Kesler’s shot found an open lane to the net in the first minute of the final frame. Later, Kesler took advantage of an attempted pass from Boyle to Pavelski that was too hot for Pavelski to handle. He had time to wind up and put everything he had into a slap shot that beat Niemi at 7:06.
“We enter the third and take a penalty we’d probably like to have back, they score on the power play,” Todd McLellan said.
Marleau has at least one point in all seven career playoff games against Vancouver, dating back to the five-game series loss in the Western Conference finals in 2011.
After not getting a single point in the Sharks’ first round defeat last year, Marleau has been among San Jose’s best postseason players through two games. The winger was second on the Sharks in goals in the regular season with 17, but just one of those came in the final 16 games.
“All I’ve seen in five years is him score big goals in the playoffs,” McLellan said. “He didn’t have a great playoff last year, but I only know him as the other player.”
The Sharks will take their lead back to HP Pavilion, where they lost just two games in regulation all season (17-2-5). Still, they are only halfway towards advancing.
“We improved our chances, but that’s all we did right now,” Boyle said. “There are no guarantees. We’re going to have to work, and earn the next two.”
Torres said: “It’s tough to just get one in this building, so we’re feeling good right now, but this series is far from over.”