The Vancouver Canucks were on the brink of their first Stanley Cup in 17 years after a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday gave them a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference final.
Sami Salo scored a pair of goals just 16 seconds apart in the second period, where the top-seeded Canucks netted three power-play shots to take a 3-0 lead as they rebounded from Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Sharks.
Vancouver will host Game 5 in the best-of-seven series today when they will bid to reach their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
They overcame San Jose on Sunday despite being outshot by a margin of 35-13 and surviving a third-period assault of 17 shots by the home side.
“As far as I can remember [I don’t think we’ve won a game taking just 13 shots],” Salo told reporters. “[Roberto Luongo] made some big saves and our penalty kill stepped up tonight big time.”
Goaltender Luongo finished with 33 saves to perhaps move the Canucks one step closer to their first ever NHL title.
The Sharks enjoyed five straight power-play opportunities early in the game, but Vancouver managed to contain San Jose despite the absence of top defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome.
Both players were injured during Game 3, but Vancouver showed little drop-off and Luongo was enjoying a 4-0 shutout lead before San Jose’s Andrew Desjardins got his team on the board at 7:02 in the third.
Ryane Clowe added a wrist shot goal with 4:05 remaining to trim the Sharks’ deficit, but the Canucks fought them off in the closing minutes to earn the win.
Vancouver center Henrik Sedin powered the offense with a Canucks’ playoff record-tying four assists.
He helped Ryan Kesler give the team a 1-0 lead at 9:16 in the second before Salo struck twice as the Canucks maximized the power-play.
“We got some good looks, and for me it was picking and choosing who was going to shoot the puck,” Sedin said. “Today, [Salo] was open a couple times and he did a good job.”
San Jose will attempt to shake off a day of missed opportunities and begin climbing out of their series hole in Game 5.
The team may have to do it without captain Joe Thornton, who left the game in the third after taking a hit along the boards from Vancouver’s Raffi Torres.