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Bieksa scores big goal, throws punches in fight as Canucks defeat Sharks

VANCOUVER - Daniel Sedin scored twice on the power play, while defence Kevin Bieksa had a goal and showed his toughness in a fight as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 7-3 Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the NHL Western Conference final.

Bieksa broke open a tight game in the second period when he took a pass from Chris Higgins, skated in alone, and beat Sharks' goaltender Antti Niemi with a hard, low shot to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead.

A few minutes later the junk-yard dog tough defenceman dropped his gloves and exchanged punches with San Jose's Patrick Marleau. Bieksa landed several hard, right-handed shots before the linesmen stepped in.

"He's a huge part of this team," Higgins said of Bieksa. "He had another great game for us tonight. Hels a leader in the dressing room."

Higgins, on the power play, Mason Raymond and Aaron Rome also scored for the Canucks, who exploded for four third-period goals.

Bieksa also collected an assist.

Sedin leads the playoffs with five power-play goals. His eight goals is tied for the playoff lead with Sean Bergenheim of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Logan Couture, Ben Eager and Marleau scored for the Sharks.

"You lose 7-3, not many people played well," Couture said. "The list goes on. Its embarrassing."

The best-of-seven series moves to San Jose for games Friday and Sunday. Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday at Rogers Arena.

Actress Kim Cattrall and NBA superstar Steve Nash, who both grew up in B.C., were among the towel-waving crowd of 18,860. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also attended the game.

Vancouver has been dangerous in the third period in this series. The Canucks scored goals 79 seconds apart in the third Sunday for a 3-2 victory in the opening game of the series.

The intensity level was cranked up for Game 2. There were several scrums after the whistle and some thundering collisions. The game ended with several shoving matches and punches thrown.

A hit by Eager on Daniel Sedin late in the second period infuriated the crowd and had the Canucks seeing red.

Eager ran into Sedin from behind, sending him crashing into the boards. The forward lay on the ice a few seconds before skating to the bench. Eager was called for boarding. Sedin returned to score on a power play later in the third period.

Shark defenceman Douglas Murray set the tone early, flattening Rome with a bruising hit. Bieksa returned the favour, running over former teammate Kyle Wellwood like a cardboard cutout.

Eager was off for tripping when Higgins made it 4-2. He took a pass from Mason Raymond and fired the puck behind Niemi. The Canucks are 4-0 in playoff games where Higgins, who was picked up at the trade deadline, scores.

Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo kept his team in the game when he weathered a second-period storm when the Sharks pelted him with shots. He managed to get a glove on a Joe Thornton blast.

A wild first period ended 2-2 after the teams combined for three power-play goals. The Canucks scored goals 39 seconds apart and a video replay was needed to determine one of the Shark goals.

Couture opened the scoring on a power play. The rookie made a nice move to slip the puck past Luongo at 2:28. It was his seventh goal of the playoffs.

The Canucks took the lead with a pair of quick goals. Daniel Sedin got the first one, working a pretty give-and-go with twin brother Henrik, then drifting a shot past Niemi.

Vancouver took the lead when San Jose's Joe Pavelski couldn't handle Canuck forward Raffi Torres in front of the net, allowing the big forward to tip in a pass from Christian Ehrhoff.

Daniel Sedin was in the penalty box on a questionable cross-checking penalty when the Sharks tied the game.

There was a scramble in front of the Canucks' net when Marleau shovelled a puck that slipped through Luongo's pads. The goal light did not go on and it wasn't until a video review that officials saw the puck had crossed the line.

The Sharks just missed another goal when Eager rang a shot off the post behind Luongo.

Notes: The team that has won the first game of the conference final have gone on to an 11-4 record in the series dating back to 1993-94. ....Vancouver replaced forward Tanner Glass with Jeff Tambellini on the fourth line. ...Mikael Samuelsson, out since May 9 with a lower body injury, will not travel with the team to San Jose.