Sharks look to close out Canucks with sweep

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan sees no need to remind his
team of the precariousness of a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup
playoffs.

The Sharks nearly squandered that advantage the last time they
held it, needing the full seven games to eliminate Detroit in the
second round two years ago.

With many of the same core players still around, McLellan is
content to let past experience serve as the teaching tool heading
into Game 4 of the series on Tuesday night at the Shark Tank.

”We just left it alone,” McLellan said. ”Our group is mature
enough. They should know what’s coming, what to expect and how to
respond.”

Given the comments coming out of the dressing room on Monday,
it’s clear McLellan is correct. Players echoed the mantra that the
fourth win in a series is always the hardest and insisted nothing
had been won yet despite a decisive 5-2 win in Game 3 that followed
two narrow victories in Vancouver.

”I was here when we went through that and we let a team back
into a series,” center Logan Couture said. ”Obviously it went
seven games. We were fortunate to win it. We let them back in.
That’s something we don’t want to do. We want to put them away in
Game 4.”

There’s one big difference from that series two years ago when
the Sharks eked out three straight one-goal wins to build their
cushion over the Red Wings. Their edge over the Canucks so far has
been more convincing, especially in the 5-2 thrashing on
Sunday.

The power play clicked to tie a franchise record with three
goals, the defense kept pressure off goaltender Antti Niemi and the
Sharks showed discipline to stay out of the penalty box even when
the game got testy.

The Canucks feel there is another factor: embellishment.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa singled out Couture and Sharks captain
Joe Thornton for exaggerating contact to draw penalties. Bieksa
said Couture flails every time he is touched and blamed Thornton
for taking off his glove and shaking his wrist to draw a slashing
penalty on Dan Hamhuis that led to a 5-on-3 goal that opened the
scoring Sunday.

”Those are two Canadian guys that are supposed to be playing
the game with integrity,” Bieksa said. ”Maybe our team has to do
more of that. Maybe we have to sell calls.”

The Canucks have earned quite a reputation for embellishment
themselves over the years with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows
considered two of the main violators.

In fact, Kesler crumbled to the ice grabbing his throat after
taking a high stick from Patrick Marleau on the helmet strap
Sunday. Kesler quickly recovered and stayed in the game for the
ensuing power play.

The Sharks had eight power plays in Game 3, while Vancouver got
only two chances with the man advantage.

”That’s always something we talk about especially when they
have a potent power play like they have,” Marleau said. ”At
playoff time you have to try to stay disciplined and not let your
emotions get the better of you sometimes after the whistle with
pushing and shoving.”

The talk of diving may have been a tactic to divert the
conversation from Vancouver’s brutal recent playoff past.

After beating the Sharks in the Western Conference finals and
taking a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup finals over Boston two years
ago, the Canucks have been downright abysmal in the postseason.

Vancouver has lost nine of its past 10 playoff games, having
also fallen behind 3-0 in the opening round a year ago to Los
Angeles before being eliminated in five games.

The Canucks have 15 goals in that span as a normally potent
offense led by the Sedin twins has disappeared of late in the
postseason.

”There’s some good chances there 5-on-5,” coach Alain
Vigneault said. ”So far we haven’t been able to put the puck in
the net. I have to believe that for one game we can do it.”

The other big question for the Canucks comes in goal where
former starter Roberto Luongo played well the first two games in
place of the injured Cory Schneider before Vigneault made a switch
from Game 3.

Schneider allowed five goals on 28 shots and was replaced after
giving up three in the opening 4:07 of the third period.

Luongo stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief and has a .915
save percentage in this series.

Vigneault said he has made a decision about his starter for
Tuesday, but won’t announce it until after he tells the
players.

The focus now is on figuring out how to beat the Sharks four
straight times after losing the first six meetings between the
teams this season.

”I believe we can win one game,” Vigneault said. ”We haven’t
beaten the Sharks once this year. I believe we can do it
tomorrow.”