Sharks shoot for sweep of Canucks

The San Jose Sharks will try to complete the franchise's first sweep of a playoff series on Tuesday when they host the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 at HP Pavilion.

After winning Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver, sixth-seeded San Jose staked itself to a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series with Sunday's 5-2 rout of the Canucks.

If San Jose can't finish the sweep of the third-seeded Canucks, the series will head back to Vancouver for a Game 5 encounter on Thursday.

The Canucks, who won their fifth straight Northwest Division title this season, are in serious danger of a second straight first-round exit. Vancouver was the top-seeded team in the West last spring when it was eliminated in the opening round by Los Angeles.

Vancouver lost the opener of this series by a 3-1 score before falling 3-2 in overtime in Game 2. The Canucks were hoping the return of No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider would change their fortunes in Game 3, but that was not the case.

Instead, it was San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi leading his team to victory, as he made 28 saves to back up a strong offensive effort from the Sharks, who took control of the game with three goals in the first 4:07 of the third period.

The Sharks led 2-0 before Alexandre Burrows cut the deficit for Vancouver at 11:07 of the second period. However, Logan Couture registered two power-play goals during San Jose's outburst in the third period to help five the Sharks a 5-1 lead.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Sharks broke the game open by lighting the lamp three times in a span of 2:27.

San Jose opened the frame on a power play after Joe Thornton drew a cross- checking penalty on a breakaway with 15 seconds left in the second period. Couture skated down the left wing and beat Schneider to the far side at the 1:40 mark. Patrick Marleau scored nine seconds later, cutting to the middle and firing a shot while falling down.

Couture converted on another man advantage at 4:07 to make it 5-1 and end Schneider's outing.

"It's nice to get the quick (goals), mine on the power play and (Marleau)," Couture said. "Big goals. Got the crowd back into it, got us going in the third. It was a lot of fun."

Dan Hamhuis scored for Vancouver at 13:12 of the third period to account for the final margin.

Schneider missed the final two games of the regular season and did not dress for the first two playoff contests with what the team termed a "body" injury. He was replaced in the third period on Sunday by Roberto Luongo, who started and lost the first two games of the series in Vancouver.

"Down 3-0, our lifelines are gone. We can't mess up anymore," said Canucks forward Jannik Hansen.

The Canucks were one win away from winning the club's first championship in 2011, but have now lost nine of their last 10 playoff games since taking a 3-2 lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago.

Vancouver hasn't been swept in a best-of-seven series since losing four straight to Colorado in the opening round of the 2001 playoffs.

The Sharks, who won all three encounters against Vancouver in the regular season, were 17-2-5 on home ice this year compared to an 8-14-2 mark on the road.

San Jose played the last two games without forward Martin Havlat, who is dealing with a lower-body issue and is questionable for Tuesday. Fellow forward Scott Gomez (undisclosed) and defenseman Jason Demers (ankle) are also questionable for Game 3.

These teams met just once before in the playoffs, with the Canucks taking the Western Conference final series in 2011 in a five-game victory.