Associated PressSan Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton

Associated PressSan Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton

Sharks surge to commanding 3-0 series lead

Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture each scored twice to spoil Cory Schneider’s return to the nets for Vancouver and the San Jose Sharks won their third straight game to open the playoffs, beating the Canucks 5-2 on Sunday night.

Pavelski scored the first two goals and Couture and Patrick Marleau added scores 9 seconds apart to break the game open early in the third period and give the Sharks a 3-0 series lead.

Couture added a second power-play goal early in the third to end Schneider’s night and give him a playoff-best four points for the game. Antti Niemi made 28 saves.

San Jose will attempt to complete the first series sweep in franchise history at home on Tuesday night.

Alex Burrows and Dan Hamhuis scored for the Canucks, who have lost nine of their past 10 playoff games since taking a 3-2 series lead over Boston in the Stanley Cup finals two years ago. Vancouver dropped the last two games of that series, was eliminated in five games in the first round a year ago by Los Angeles and has now fallen into a deep hole against the Sharks.

Even a change at goaltender couldn’t change the Canucks’ playoff fortunes. Schneider, the starter for most of the regular season, replaced former starter Roberto Luongo after missing the first two games with an undisclosed injury.

Schneider didn’t even finish the night as he was replaced by Luongo after allowing three goals in the first 4:07 of the third period to end Vancouver’s hopes of a comeback.

The scoring flurry to start the third sent the sellout crowd at the Shark Tank into a frenzy. The first came on a power play when Couture took a long breakout pass from Matt Irwin and beat Schneider from the top of the circle with no traffic in front of the net on the power play.

Couture then won the ensuing faceoff and Marleau skated into the zone and beat Schneider between the pads before the first celebration had even died down to score for the third straight game.

Couture added another power-play goal on a pass from Joe Thornton to give him three for the series and give the Sharks three goals in a span of 2:27.

As much as the goaltending was a problem for Vancouver in this game, goal scoring has been a problem all series. Burrows gave the top line its first goal of the series when he one-timed a pass from Henrik Sedin past Niemi midway through the second period to cut San Jose’s lead to 2-1.

But that’s all Vancouver could manage until Hamhuis’ goal late in the third cut the deficit to 5-2. The Canucks have been held to five goals through three games.

Pavelski built the lead for the Sharks when he scored on a two-man advantage in the first period and then tipped a long shot from Tommy Wingels past Schneider to make it 2-0 in the second period.

After being held pointless in a five-game, first-round loss to St. Louis a year ago, Pavelski is back to being the big-time playoff performer he has been for much of his career in San Jose. He had his fourth career two-goal game in the postseason after assisting on three goals the first two games.

San Jose returned home to a towel-waving crowd at the Shark Tank after winning the first two games on the road in a playoff series for the first time since 1995 and broke out to a 1-0 lead after a high-paced first period when Pavelski converted a pass from Couture during a 5-on-3 advantage.

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